Flow convergence routing hypothesis for pool-riffle maintenance in alluvial rivers

Michael L. MacWilliams Jr., Joseph Wheaton, Gregory P. Pasternack, Robert L. Street, Peter K. Kitanidis

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The velocity reversal hypothesis is commonly cited as a mechanism for the maintenance of pool-riffle morphology. Although this hypothesis is based on the magnitude of mean flow parameters, recent studies have suggested that mean parameters are not sufficient to explain the dominant processes in many pool-riffle sequences. In this study, two- and three-dimensional models are applied to simulate flow in the pool-riffle sequence on Dry Creek, California, where the velocity reversal hypothesis was first proposed. These simulations provide an opportunity to evaluate the hydrodynamics underlying the observed reversals in near-bed and section-averaged velocity and are used to investigate the influence of secondary currents, the advection of momentum, and cross-stream flow variability. The simulation results support the occurrence of a reversal in mean velocity and mean shear stress with increasing discharge. However, the results indicate that the effects of flow convergence due to an upstream constriction and the routing of flow through the system are more significant in influencing pool-riffle morphology than the occurrence of a mean velocity reversal. The hypothesis of flow convergence routing is introduced as a more meaningful explanation of the mechanisms acting to maintain pool-riffle morphology.
Original languageEnglish
JournalWater Resources Research
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2006


  • bed shear stress
  • channel morphology
  • flow convergence
  • hydrodynamics
  • numerical modeling
  • pool-riffle
  • river modeling
  • velocity reversal


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