Consequences of hyperconcentrated flow for process-based soil erosion modelling on the Chinese Loess Plateau

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Abstract

High sediment concentrations in runoff are a characteristic feature of the Chinese Loess Plateau, and are probably caused by factors such as the occurrence of erodible materials on steep slopes, the characteristics of the loess and the harsh climate that results in low plant cover. When sediment concentration increases, fluid density increases, viscosity increases and settling velocity decreases. These effects become increasingly important with increasing concentration and can result in flow behaviour that is quite different from that of clear water flow. Although the net effect of these changes on the flow is not always apparent, erosion models that deal with high sediment concentrations should consider such effects and could include corrections for some of these effects. A case study in a small catchment on the Loess Plateau indicated that sediment concentrations were considerable, and literature data suggested that for such sediment concentrations, corrections for settling velocity, fluid density and viscosity are needed. Furthermore, a number of corrections are necessary to be able to compare field measurements with results of soil erosion models: sediment volume should be subtracted from runoff volume and a density correction is needed to use data from a pressure transducer. For flumes that were used to measure discharge from smaller areas inside the catchment, the measured water level should be corrected by subtracting the sediment level in the flume from the water level, while the sediment volume should also be subtracted from the discharge. Finally, measured concentration should be corrected to give concentration expressed as grams per litre of clear water, since soil erosion models express sediment concentration in this way.

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