Hydro‐morphodynamic evolution in a 90° movable bed discordant confluence with low discharge ratio
Confluences with low discharge and momentum ratios, where narrow steep tributaries with high sediment load join a wide low-gradient main channel that provides the main discharge, are often observed in high mountain regions such as in the upper- Rhone river catchment in Switzerland. Few existing studies have examined the hydro-morphodynamics of this type of river confluence while considering sediment discharge in both confluent channels. This paper presents the evolution of the bed morphology and hydrodynamics as observed in an experimental facility with a movable bed. For that purpose, one experiment was carried out in a laboratory confluence with low discharge and momentum ratios, where constant sediment rates were supplied to both flumes. During the experiment, bed topography and water surface elevations were systematically recorded. When the bed topography reached a steady state (so-called equilibrium) and the outgoing sediment rate approximated the incoming rate, flow velocity was measured at 12 different points distributed throughout the confluence, and the grain size distribution of the bed surface was analyzed. Typical morphodynamic features of discordant confluences such as a bank-attached bar and a flow deflection zone are identified in this study. Nevertheless, the presence of a marked scour hole in the discordant confluence and distinct flow regimes for the tributary and main channel, differ from results obtained in previous studies. Strong acceleration of the flow along the outer bank of the main channel is responsible for the scour hole. This erosion is facilitated by the sediment discharge into the confluence from the main channel which inhibits bed armoring in this region. The supercritical flow regime observed in the tributary is the hydrodynamic response to the imposed sediment rate in the tributary. Copyright © 2015 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.