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  1. Free, publicly-accessible full text available June 1, 2024
  2. null (Ed.)
  3. Abstract

    As sediment is transported through river corridors, it typically spends more time in storage than transport, and as a result, sediment delivery timescales are controlled by the duration of storage. Present understanding of storage timescales is largely derived from models or from field studies covering relatively short (≤102 year) time spans. Here we quantify the storage time distribution for a 17 km length of Powder River in Montana, USA by determining the age distribution of eroded sediment. Our approach integrates surveyed cross‐sections, analysis of historical aerial imagery, aerial LiDAR, geomorphic mapping, and age control provided by optically stimulated luminescence (OSL) and dendrochronology. Sediment eroded by Powder River from 1998 to 2013 ranges from a few years to ∼5,000 years in age; ages are exponentially distributed (r2 = 0.78; Anderson‐Darlingpvalue 0.003). Eroded sediment is derived from Powder River's meander belt (∼900 m wide), which is only 1.25 times its meander wavelength, a value reflecting valley confinement rather than free meandering. The mean storage time, 824 years (95% C.I. 610–1030 years), is similar to the time required to rework deposits of Powder River's meander belt based on an average meander migration rate of ∼1 m/yr, implying that storage time distributions of confined meandering rivers can be quantified from remotely sensed estimates of meander belt width and channel migration rates. Heavy‐tailed storage time distributions, frequently cited from physical and numerical modeling studies, may be restricted to unconfined meandering rivers.

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