Amazon flood wave hydraulics

MA Trigg, MD Wilson, PD Bates, MS Horritt, DE Alsdorf, BR Forsberg, MC Vega

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

140 Citations (Scopus)


A bathymetric survey of 575 km of the central Amazon River and one of its tributaries, the Purus, are combined with gauged data to characterise the Amazon flood wave, and for hydraulic modelling of the main channel for the period June 1995–March 1997 with the LISFLOOD-FP and HEC-RAS hydraulic models.
Our investigations show that the Amazon flood wave is subcritical and diffusive in character and, due to shallow bed slopes, backwater conditions control significant reach lengths and are present for low and high water states. Comparison of the different models shows that it is necessary to include at least the diffusion term in any model, and the RMSE error in predicted water elevation at all cross sections introduced by ignoring the acceleration and advection terms is of the order of 0.02–0.03 m. The use of a wide rectangular channel approximation introduces an error of 0.10–0.15 m on the predicted water levels. Reducing the bathymetry to a simple bed slope and with mean cross section only, introduces an error in the order of 0.5 m. These results show that when compared to the mean annual amplitude of the Amazon flood wave of 11–12 m, water levels are relatively insensitive to the bathymetry of the channel model. The implication for remote sensing studies of the central Amazon channel, such as those proposed with the Surface Water and Ocean Topography mission (SWOT), is that even relatively crude assumptions regarding the channel bathymetry will be valid in order to derive discharge from water surface slope of the main channel, as long as the mean channel area is approximately correct.
Translated title of the contributionAmazon flood wave hydraulics
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)92 - 105
JournalJournal of Hydrology
Publication statusPublished - 2009

Bibliographical note

Publisher: Elsevier


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