Fluvio-deltaic response to relative sea-level fall
Nijhuis, Austin. “Fluvio-deltaic response to relative sea-level fall”, Boston College, 2013. http://hdl.handle.net/2345/bc-ir:104083.
Due to their low-lying position near the shoreline, river deltas are vulnerable to fluctuations in relative sea-level (RSL). Moreover, relatively little is known about fluvio-deltaic dynamics during RSL fall because the resulting deposits have low preservation potential. In this paper, I present a field-based study of the Goose River delta, coupled with numerical model simulations, that investigates the fluvio-deltaic response to RSL fall. The Goose River delta is a sandy fjord delta at the mouth of the Goose River located at the western end of Lake Melville, an inlet of the Labrador Sea, Canada and has experienced a RSL fall of 3 to 6 mm/yr in the past 5000 years due to post-glacial isostatic rebound. Aerial images show three abandoned delta lobes and one active lobe, suggesting that avulsions and lobe-switching occurred during RSL fall. Elevation analysis using Shuttle Radar Topography Mission (SRTM) digital elevation model (DEM) data and optically-stimulated luminescence (OSL) dating suggest that a series of downstepping terraced delta lobes formed at the mouth of the Goose River during a period of RSL fall. Similarly, Delft3D model runs show continued avulsions and formation of multiple terraced delta lobes deposited at progressively lower elevations. I show computationally that by decreasing delta lobe widths, deltas may remain aggradational during RSL fall, creating conditions favorable for lobe-switching during RSL fall. Observations from the field and model runs provide a critical link in understanding the geomorphic processes occurring during RSL fall, and in particular show that 1) incision and sediment bypass is not a necessary response to RSL fall and 2) lateral migration of a delta via avulsion can continue to occur with falling sea-level.