Main content area

tRIBS-Erosion: A parsimonious physically-based model for studying catchment hydro-geomorphic response

Francipane, Antonio, Ivanov, Valeriy Y., Noto, Leonardo V., Istanbulluoglu, Erkan, Arnone, Elisa, Bras, Rafael L.
Catena 2012 v.92 pp. 216-231
basins, climate, drainage, models, overland flow, raindrop impact, runoff, sediment transport, sediment yield, watersheds, Arizona
Our goal is to develop a model capable to discern the response of a watershed to different erosion mechanisms. We propose a framework that integrates a geomorphic component into the physically-based and spatially distributed TIN-based Real-time Integrated Basin Simulator (tRIBS) model. The coupled model simulates main erosive processes of hillslopes (raindrop impact detachment, overland flow entrainment, and diffusive processes) and channel (erosion and deposition due to the action of water flow). In addition to the spatially distributed, dynamic hydrologic variables, the model computes the sediment transport discharge and changes in elevation, which feedback to hydrological dynamics through local changes of terrain slope, aspect, and drainage network configuration. The model was calibrated for the Lucky Hills basin, a semi-arid watershed nested in the Walnut Gulch Experimental Watershed (Arizona, USA). It is demonstrated to be capable of reproducing main runoff and sediment yield events and accumulated volumes over the long term. The model was also used to study the response of two first-order synthetic basins representative of landforms dominated by fluvial and diffusive erosion processes to a 100-year long stationary climate. The analysis of the resultant slope-contributing area relationships for the two synthetic basins illustrates that the model is consistent with assumed principles of behavior and capable of reproducing the main mechanisms of erosion.