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Stability of an upland gravel-bed stream, Swinhope Burn, Northern England.

Warburton, J. and Danks, M. and Wishart, D. (2002) 'Stability of an upland gravel-bed stream, Swinhope Burn, Northern England.', Catena., 49 (4). pp. 309-329.


Some upland gravel-bed streams often undergo frequent channel change in response to floods and changes in sediment supply. However, in others, where local conditions permit, long-term channel planform stability can be observed. This paper uses evidence from Swinhope Burn in upper Weardale, Northern England, to demonstrate relative channel stability over a 180-year period. Channel planform change is identified using seven historical maps and air photographs dating from 1815 to 1991. The 1.4-km study reach has retained a stable meandering pattern over a period of 180 years, with a temporary but dramatic change to a straight, low sinuosity, partly divided channel, at some point between 1815 and 1856 (identifiable on the 1844 Tithe Map). Channel planform stability, observed over the historic period, is related in part to the low channel gradient upstream of a cross-valley moraine situated at the lower end of the study reach. This moraine has led to partial closure of the valley system and the development of a small upstream floodplain or ‘sedimentation zone’ (average width of 150 m). The resulting low channel gradient (0.012) inhibits coarse bedload transport and encourages overbank sedimentation. Cohesive banks promote lateral channel stability and the wide floodplain reduces potential coupling between the channel and valley-side slope sediment sources. The probable cause of the observed channel planform change is the combination of a succession of four major floods in the River Wear catchment during the 1820s, and episodic inputs of sediment generated by upstream metal mining between 1823 and 1846. Large floods in the past 40 years have produced very little evidence of lasting channel change. However, locally a channel avulsion has been documented following a flood in February 1997. This represents a useful modern analogue for previous mechanisms of channel change.

Item Type:Article
Keywords:Channel change, Floods, Avulsion, Historical data.
Full text:Full text not available from this repository.
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Date accepted:No date available
Date deposited:No date available
Date of first online publication:November 2002
Date first made open access:No date available

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