Ice jam-caused fluvial gullies and scour holes on northern river flood plains
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AbstractTwo anomalous fluvial landforms, gullies and scour holes, eroded into flood plains bordering meandering and braiding river channels have not been previously reported. We observed these features along the Milk River in southern Alberta, Canada, and northern Montana, USA, which has a history of frequent (50% probability of recurrence) and high-magnitude (12% probability of recurrence greater than bankfull) ice jam floods. Gullies have palmate and narrow linear shapes with open-ends downvalley and measure up to 208 m long×139 m wide×3.5 m deep (below bankfull). Channel ice jams reroute river water across meander lobes and cause headward gully erosion where flow returns to the main channel. Erosion of the most recent gully was observed during the record 1996 ice breakup flood and ice jams. Scour holes (bowl-shaped, closed depressions), eroded by water vortices beneath and between grounded ice jam blocks, measure up to 91 m long×22 m wide×4.5 m deep. Ice jam-caused gullies may be precursors to the formation of U-shaped oxbow lakes and multiple channels, common in many northern rivers.

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