Academic Affiliation: University of Texas at San Antonio
Jose Silvestre is currently a geoscience major at the University of Texas at San Antonio. His passion for the geosciences was sparked when his love for the outdoors led him to participate in a wild-cave tour. His interest in karst morphology led him to his current focus in fluvial geomorphology. For his RESESS project, Jose utilized modeling techniques to determine how India’s National River Linking Project will affect sediment transport to the Ganga-Brahmaputra-Meghna (GBM) Delta. Because suspended sediment deposition is crucial for the GBM to compensate for sea level rise, Jose’s results may have impacts on future policy making.
2016- Modeling Sediment Transport to the Ganga-Brahmaputra-Meghna Delta
India’s National River Linking Project (NRLP) will transfer approximately 174 Bm3/y of water from the mountainous, water-rich north to the water-scarce south and west. Although there are many short-term benefits of the NRLP, such as decreased flooding during the monsoon season and increased water resources for irrigation, long-term consequences may include decreased sedimentation to the Ganga-Brahmaputra-Meghna Delta (GBM). Currently the GBM has a vertical aggradation rate of approximately 1-2 cm/y and is able to compensate for a global mean sea level rise of 3.3 ± 0.4 mm/y. However, Bangladesh and the GBM stand to be geomorphically impacted should the aggradation rate fall below sea level rise.
This study better constrains influences of anthropogenic activities and sediment transport to the GBM. We employ HydroTrend, a climate-driven hydrological and sediment transport model, to simulate daily sediment and water fluxes for the period 1982 – 2012. Simulations are calibrated and validated against water discharge data from the Farakka Barrage, and different ways of delineating the Ganga Basin into sub-catchments are explored. Preliminary results show a 47% difference between simulated and observed mean annual water discharge when using basin-averaged input values and only a 1% difference for the base-case scenario, where proposed dams and canals are not included. Comparisons between the canals simulation (proposed NRLP included) and validation data suggest a 60% reduction in sediment load. However, comparison between the base-case simulation and the canals simulation suggests that India’s water transfer project could decrease sediment delivery to the GBM by 9%. Further work should investigate improvements in the agreement between base-case simulation and validation data.
2017- Experimental investigation of channel avulsion frequency on river deltas under rising sea levels
River deltas are low-relief landscapes that are socioeconomically important; they are home to over half a billion people worldwide. Many deltas are built by cycles of lobe growth punctuated by abrupt channel shifts, or avulsions, which often reoccur at a similar location and with a regular frequency. Previous experimental work has investigated the effect of hydrodynamic backwater in controlling channel avulsion location and timing on deltas under constant sea level conditions, but it is unclear how sea-level rise impacts avulsion dynamics. We present results from a flume experiment designed to isolate the role of relative sea-level rise on the evolution of a backwater-influenced delta. The experiment was conducted in the river-ocean facility at Caltech, where a 7m long, 14cm wide alluvial river drains into a 6m by 3m “ocean” basin. The experimental delta grew under subcritical flow, a persistent backwater zone, and a range of sea level rise rates. Without sea level rise, lobe progradation produced in-channel aggradation and periodic avulsions every 3.6 ± 0.9 hours, which corresponded to when channels aggraded to approximately one-half of their flow depth. With a modest rate of sea-level rise (0.25 mm/hr), we observed enhanced aggradation in the backwater zone, causing channels to aggrade more quickly and avulse more frequently (every 2.1 ± 0.6 hours). In future work, we expect further increases in the rate of relative sea-level rise to cause avulsion frequency to decrease as the delta drowns and the backwater zone retreats upstream. Experimental results can serve as tests of numerical models that are needed for hazard mitigation and coastal sustainability efforts on drowning deltas.