Fractal patterns in riverbed morphology produce fractal scaling of water storage times

A. F. Aubeneau*, R. L. Martin, D. Bolster, R. Schumer, D. Jerolmack, A. Packman

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations


River topography is famously fractal, and the fractality of the sediment bed surface can produce scaling in solute residence time distributions. Empirical evidence showing the relationship between fractal bed topography and scaling of hyporheic travel times is still lacking. We performed experiments to make high-resolution observations of streambed topography and solute transport over naturally formed sand bedforms in a large laboratory flume. We analyzed the results using both numerical and theoretical models. We found that fractal properties of the bed topography do indeed affect solute residence time distributions. Overall, our experimental, numerical, and theoretical results provide evidence for a coupling between the sand-bed topography and the anomalous transport scaling in rivers. Larger bedforms induced greater hyporheic exchange and faster pore water turnover relative to smaller bedforms, suggesting that the structure of legacy morphology may be more important to solute and contaminant transport in streams and rivers than previously recognized. Key Points The fractality of sand-bed morphology and residence times are related Legacy topography controls surface-subsurface interactions in sand-bed streams Our results show that fractal patterns in space and time are linked.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5309-5315
Number of pages7
JournalGeophysical Research Letters
Issue number13
StatePublished - Jul 16 2015


  • surface-groundwater interaction

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geophysics
  • General Earth and Planetary Sciences


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