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Annual sediment budget of a UK mountain torrent

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Research into torrent erosion focuses heavily on bedload transport dynamics and debris flow propagation during specific events. As a result, there is limited understanding of the sediment budgets operating in torrent systems over longer timescales. The aim of this study is to construct a sediment budget of the main geomorphological processes operating in a mountain torrent sediment system over a full year.

The study site is Iron Crag which is a small torrent system (catchment area 2.4 ha) situated in the northern Lake District, UK. The site has the characteristic morphology of a torrent: multiple hillslope sediment sources, steep channel, gorges, and a basal alluvial fan. A measurement scheme was designed to monitor process activity, linking the sediment sources and sinks, from December 1998 to December 1999. Over this time period the sediment budget demonstrates that 184 tonnes of sediment was supplied to the alluvial fan (which acted primarily as a sediment sink). Channel (70%) and bank (25%) sources dominated the sediment supply, and surface processes and rockfall on the hillslopes (5%) made only a minor contribution.

Temporal variations in process activity are significant. Surface processes and rockfall display seasonal variations in yield, whilst channel and bank yields are influenced by individual storm events. Site–specific meteorological data are used to explain these observations and freeze–thaw activity and rainfall characteristics are shown to be important controlling factors.
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Keywords: meteorology; mountain torrent; sediment budget; temporal variability

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: University of Durham, 2: University of Durham, Email: [email protected]

Publication date: 2002-08-01

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