The active layer model (Hirano, 1971) is frequently used for modeling mixed-size sediment river morphodynamic processes. It assumes that all the dynamics of the bed surface are captured by a homogeneous top layer that interacts with the flow. Although successful in reproducing a wide range of phenomena, it has two problems: (1) It may become mathematically ill-posed, which causes the model to lose its predictive capabilities, and (2) it does not capture dispersion of tracer sediment. We extend the active layer model by accounting for conservation of the sediment in transport and obtain a new model that overcomes the two problems. We analytically assess the model properties and discover an instability mechanism associated with the formation of waves under conditions in which the active layer model is ill-posed. Numerical simulations using the new model show that it is capable of reproducing two laboratory experiments conducted under conditions in which the active layer model is ill-posed. The new model captures the formation of waves and mixing due to an increase in active layer thickness. Simulations of tracer dispersion show that the model reproduces reasonably well a laboratory experiment under conditions in which the effect of temporary burial of sediment due to bedforms is negligible. Simulations of a field experiment illustrate that the model does not capture the effect of temporary burial of sediment by bedforms.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2491-2520
Number of pages30
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Earth Surface
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 2019

    Research areas

  • active layer, mixed-size sediment, well-posedness

ID: 66841505