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Historical channel-planform change of the Little Colorado River near Winslow, Arizona

August 5, 2014

This study evaluates channel-planform adjustment on an alluvial reach of the Little Colorado River and documents the geomorphic evolution of the channel through an analysis of aerial photographs and orthophotographs for the period 1936–2010. The Little Colorado River has adjusted to the effects of an extreme flood in 1923 and a subsequent decline in peak discharge and mean annual flow by channel narrowing: the channel width and area of the river have decreased by approximately 90 percent over the study period. Although deposition historically exceeds erosion, lateral migration exacerbates localized erosion, particularly near hydraulic controls. Despite repeated cutoff and avulsion, the Little Colorado River has steadily increased in length and sinuosity over a period of 74 years.

Changes in temperature and precipitation are likely affecting the discharge of the Little Colorado River near and downstream of Winslow, Ariz. Nonparametric methods of trend detection determine whether the probability distribution of temperature, precipitation, and peak streamflow has changed over time. Time-series plots of temperature and precipitation show statistically significant trends at the 99-percent-confidence level when evaluated with a Mann-Kendall test. An increasing trend was indicated in mean daily minimum air temperature (Tmin), whereas decreasing trends were indicated in both annual precipitation (Pann) and monsoon-seasonal precipitation (Pjas), as well as in peak discharge.

Publication Year 2014
Title Historical channel-planform change of the Little Colorado River near Winslow, Arizona
DOI 10.3133/sir20145112
Authors Debra L. Block
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Series Title Scientific Investigations Report
Series Number 2014-5112
Index ID sir20145112
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Geology, Minerals, Energy, and Geophysics Science Center