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Water Science and Applications



  • Paleohydrology
  • Floods

Index Terms

  • 1815 Hydrology: Erosion and sedimentation
  • 2447 Ionosphere: Modeling and forecasting



Paleoflood reconstruction on floodplains using geophysical survey data and hydraulic modeling

Geoff Pickup

CSIRO Land and Water, Canberra City, Australia

Alan Marks

CSIRO Land and Water, Canberra City, Australia

Mary Bourke

School of Geography, University of Oxford, England

Arid zone floodplains may contain large-scale landforms created by paleoflood deposition. However, reconstruction of event magnitude using hydraulic modeling techniques may be difficult because of flow complexity and limitations of topographic data. In this chapter, we show how low-altitude airborne geophysical surveys provide terrain elevation data with sufficient resolution to describe the main elements of floodplain topography. Information from existing topographic maps cannot do this. We also present automatic methods for drainage net extraction and identification of cross-sections and flow patterns for use in gradually varied flow calculations on floodplains. Airborne geophysical surveys provide information on radioelement concentrations in near-surface soil and rock from gamma ray emission measurements. These data are used to identify sediment sources and large-scale sedimentary environments on the Todd River floodplain in arid central Australia. Gradually varied flow calculations are used to identify the extent of 50–10,000 year floods for comparison with the gamma ray and Landsat Thematic Mapper data. Patterns in the distribution of radioelements correspond closely with modeled extreme flood activity. They also show that, while much of the floodplain is active, there are older and larger sedimentary features dating from previous times and larger flood events than those experienced in the last 1,000 years.

Citation: Pickup, G., A. Marks, and M. Bourke (2002), Paleoflood reconstruction on floodplains using geophysical survey data and hydraulic modeling, in Ancient Floods, Modern Hazards: Principles and Applications of Paleoflood Hydrology, Water Sci. Appl., vol. 5, edited by P. K. House et al., pp. 47–60, AGU, Washington, D. C., doi:10.1029/WS005p0047.


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