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Geomorphic effects, flood power, and channel competence of a catastrophic flood in confined and unconfined reaches of the upper Lockyer valley, southeast Queensland, Australia

Publication Date
DOI: 10.1016/j.geomorph.2013.05.006
  • Catastrophic Flood
  • Geomorphic Response
  • Lidar
  • Stream Power
  • Modelling


Abstract Flooding is a persistent natural hazard, and even modest changes in future climate are believed to lead to large increases in flood magnitude. Previous studies of extreme floods have reported a range of geomorphic responses from negligible change to catastrophic channel change. This paper provides an assessment of the geomorphic effects of a rare, high magnitude event that occurred in the Lockyer valley, southeast Queensland in January 2011. The average return interval of the resulting flood was ~2000years in the upper catchment and decreased to ~30years downstream. A multitemporal LiDAR-derived DEM of Difference (DoD) is used to quantify morphological change in two study reaches with contrasting valley settings (confined and unconfined). Differences in geomorphic response between reaches are examined in the context of changes in flood power, channel competence and degree of valley confinement using a combination of one-dimensional (1-D) and two-dimensional (2-D) hydraulic modelling. Flood power peaked at 9800Wm−2 along the confined reach and was 2–3 times lower along the unconfined reach. Results from the DoD confirm that the confined reach was net erosional, exporting ~287,000m3 of sediment whilst the unconfined reach was net depositional gaining ~209,000m3 of sediment, 70% of the amount exported from the upstream, confined reach. The major sources of eroded sediment in the confined reach were within channel benches and macrochannel banks resulting in a significant increase of channel width. In the unconfined reach, the benches and floodplains were the major loci for deposition, whilst the inner channel exhibited minor width increases. The presence of high stream power values, and resultant high erosion rates, within the confined reach is a function of the higher energy gradient of the steeper channel that is associated with knickpoint development. Dramatic differences in geomorphic responses were observed between the two adjacent reaches of contrasting valley configuration. The confined reach experienced large-scale erosion and reorganisation of the channel morphology that resulted in significantly different areal representations of the five geomorphic features classified in this study.

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