Scale invariance in fluvial barforms: implications for interpretation of fluvial systems in the rock record
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Understanding the controls on the size and shape of sandstone bodies deposited by fluvial systems is important in the reconstruction of ancient fluvial deposits and construction of quantitative reservoir models. Measurements and analyses of sandbodies from remotely sensed imagery have allowed quantification of width and length ratios of barforms in modern fluvial systems. For bank-attached bars the width:length ratios range between 0.12 and 0.47 (arithmetic mean: 0.25), for lateral bars between 0.19 and 0.42 (arithmetic mean: 0.30), for mid-channel bars between 0.09 and 0.49 (arithmetic mean: 0.28), and for point bars between 0.14 and 0.50 (arithmetic mean: 0.30). The majority of width:length ratios for all bar types range between 0.15 and 0.35. Examination of other parameters such as basin type, planform geometry, apparent stream width, river length, gradient over the investigated area, aggradational or degradational system, tectonic setting and climate do not significantly affect the width:length ratio. Therefore, the bar planform shape, the width:length ratio, can be considered to be scale invariant. The recognition that bar planform shape in fluvial systems is scale invariant will be useful in the construction of subsurface three-dimensional models of fluvial deposits with variable dimensions.