Global Relationships Between River Width, Slope, Catchment Area, Meander Wavelength, Sinuosity, and Discharge Academic Article uri icon


  • 2019. American Geophysical Union. All Rights Reserved. Using river centerlines created with Landsat images and the Shuttle Radar Topography Mission digital elevation model, we created spatially continuous maps of mean annual flow river width, slope, meander wavelength, sinuosity, and catchment area for all rivers wider than 90m located between 60N and 56S. We analyzed the distributions of these properties, identified their typical ranges, and explored relationships between river planform and slope. We found width to be directly associated with the magnitude of meander wavelength and catchment area. Moreover, we found that narrower rivers show a larger range of slope and sinuosity values than wider rivers. Finally, by comparing simulated discharge from a water balance model with measured widths, we show that power laws between mean annual discharge and width can predict width typically to 35% to +81%, even when a single relationship is applied across all rivers with discharge ranging from 100 to 50,000m3/s.

published proceedings

  • Geophysical Research Letters

author list (cited authors)

  • Frasson, R., Pavelsky, T. M., Fonstad, M. A., Durand, M. T., Allen, G. H., Schumann, G., ... Yang, X.

publication date

  • January 2019