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Aridity is expressed in river topography globally.
Nature 2019; 573(7775):573-577Nat

Abstract

It has long been suggested that climate shapes land surface topography through interactions between rainfall, runoff and erosion in drainage basins1-4. The longitudinal profile of a river (elevation versus distance downstream) is a key morphological attribute that reflects the history of drainage basin evolution, so its form should be diagnostic of the regional expression of climate and its interaction with the land surface5-9. However, both detecting climatic signatures in longitudinal profiles and deciphering the climatic mechanisms of their development have been challenging, owing to the lack of relevant global data and to the variable effects of tectonics, lithology, land surface properties and human activities10,11. Here we present a global dataset of 333,502 river longitudinal profiles, and use it to explore differences in overall profile shape (concavity) across climate zones. We show that river profiles are systematically straighter with increasing aridity. Through simple numerical modelling, we demonstrate that these global patterns in longitudinal profile shape can be explained by hydrological controls that reflect rainfall-runoff regimes in different climate zones. The most important of these is the downstream rate of change in streamflow, independent of the area of the drainage basin. Our results illustrate that river topography expresses a signature of aridity, suggesting that climate is a first-order control on the evolution of the drainage basin.

Authors+Show Affiliations

School of Geographical Sciences, University of Bristol, Bristol, UK. sc16970@bristol.ac.uk.School of Geographical Sciences, University of Bristol, Bristol, UK. katerina.michaelides@bristol.ac.uk. Earth Research Institute, University of California Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara, CA, USA. katerina.michaelides@bristol.ac.uk.School of Geography, Queen Mary University of London, London, UK.Earth Research Institute, University of California Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara, CA, USA. School of Earth and Ocean Sciences, Cardiff University, Cardiff, UK. Water Research Institute, Cardiff University, Cardiff, UK.

Pub Type(s)

Journal Article

Language

eng

PubMed ID

31527826

Citation

Chen, Shiuan-An, et al. "Aridity Is Expressed in River Topography Globally." Nature, vol. 573, no. 7775, 2019, pp. 573-577.
Chen SA, Michaelides K, Grieve SWD, et al. Aridity is expressed in river topography globally. Nature. 2019;573(7775):573-577.
Chen, S. A., Michaelides, K., Grieve, S. W. D., & Singer, M. B. (2019). Aridity is expressed in river topography globally. Nature, 573(7775), pp. 573-577. doi:10.1038/s41586-019-1558-8.
Chen SA, et al. Aridity Is Expressed in River Topography Globally. Nature. 2019;573(7775):573-577. PubMed PMID: 31527826.
* Article titles in AMA citation format should be in sentence-case
TY - JOUR T1 - Aridity is expressed in river topography globally. AU - Chen,Shiuan-An, AU - Michaelides,Katerina, AU - Grieve,Stuart W D, AU - Singer,Michael Bliss, Y1 - 2019/09/16/ PY - 2018/07/27/received PY - 2019/07/03/accepted PY - 2019/9/19/pubmed PY - 2019/9/19/medline PY - 2019/9/19/entrez SP - 573 EP - 577 JF - Nature JO - Nature VL - 573 IS - 7775 N2 - It has long been suggested that climate shapes land surface topography through interactions between rainfall, runoff and erosion in drainage basins1-4. The longitudinal profile of a river (elevation versus distance downstream) is a key morphological attribute that reflects the history of drainage basin evolution, so its form should be diagnostic of the regional expression of climate and its interaction with the land surface5-9. However, both detecting climatic signatures in longitudinal profiles and deciphering the climatic mechanisms of their development have been challenging, owing to the lack of relevant global data and to the variable effects of tectonics, lithology, land surface properties and human activities10,11. Here we present a global dataset of 333,502 river longitudinal profiles, and use it to explore differences in overall profile shape (concavity) across climate zones. We show that river profiles are systematically straighter with increasing aridity. Through simple numerical modelling, we demonstrate that these global patterns in longitudinal profile shape can be explained by hydrological controls that reflect rainfall-runoff regimes in different climate zones. The most important of these is the downstream rate of change in streamflow, independent of the area of the drainage basin. Our results illustrate that river topography expresses a signature of aridity, suggesting that climate is a first-order control on the evolution of the drainage basin. SN - 1476-4687 UR - https://www.unboundmedicine.com/medline/citation/31527826/Aridity_is_expressed_in_river_topography_globally DB - PRIME DP - Unbound Medicine ER -