One of the principal types of observational evidence on climatic changes in the recent geologic past is in river position and elevation. It is well known that river channels, particularly those flowing through alluvium or on relatively soft bedrock, tend to develop flood plains by lateral migration of the channel. Abandoned flood plains at elevations distinctly above the present river channel are the origin of river terraces, widespread through the world but particularly noticeable in arid regions. Climatic change is one of the causes of the abandonment of flood plains and the consequent formation of river terraces. Therefore, the identification and stratigraphy of river terraces is one of the methods by which climatic changes in the recent geologic past can be studied.
There are, of course, morphologic changes in river channels of a more subtle nature. Even when a channel is progressively degrading-a trend which will eventually result in the formation of a river terracethere are no obvious criteria by which the current changes in a river channel can be positively identified. For this reason simple techniques, which will aid in the direct observation of current changes in a channel’s position, can be helpful in identifying the nature of changes in progress.
It is the purpose of this paper to describe some relatively simple techniques which have been found to be useful in observing morphological changes on slopes and in channels. The methods have been tested primarily in arid climates but to some extent they can also be useful even where vegetation is prominent.