Flash-flood and bedload dynamics of desert gravel-bed streams

Ian Reid, Jonathan B. Laronne, D. Mark Powell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

98 Scopus citations


Comparatively little is known about the hydrology of desert flash-floods despite the extent of the world's drylands. There is even less known about their sedimentary behaviour and particularly about the movement of coarse material as bedload. The results of an intense field monitoring programme carried out on an ephemeral gravel-bed stream in the northern Negev Desert are presented. In this semi-arid setting, flow duration analysis indicates that the channel is hydrologically active for 2% of the time, or about seven days per year, and that overbank flow can be expected for only 0·03% of the time - about three hours per year. Multipeaked flood hydrographs are the norm, reflecting many factors including the arrival of separate slugs of discharge from contributing subcatchments. The passage of the initial flood bore is surprisingly slow, but the rising limb of the flood hydrograph is rapid with a median time of rise of 10 minutes, in keeping with expected flash-flood behaviour. Bedload flux is high, averaging 2·67 kg s-1 m-1 during the period that the channel carries flow. This gives very high bedload sediment yield despite the infrequent and short duration of flood flows and matches the high yield of suspended sediment. The relationship between bedload flux and boundary shear stress is simple, in contrast with perennial gravel-bed streams, and the exponent of the log-log relationship is 1·52. Of great value is that the behaviour of the Nahal Eshtemoa corroborates a pattern established by the authors previously in a smaller tributary stream.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)543-557
Number of pages15
JournalHydrological Processes
Issue number4
StatePublished - 30 Mar 1998


  • Arid-zone
  • Bedload sediment
  • Flash-flood
  • Gravel-bed stream
  • Sediment yield

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Water Science and Technology


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