Surface Water Prize

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Dr. Gary Parker (University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, USA).

Dr. Parker, one of the world’s premier river geomorphologists, has clarified the vexing problem of meandering rivers, a field that has long been an uncharted territory of geomorphology and sediment transport. His work contributes to our understanding of the shapes rivers take and how they change themselves and their floodplains as they migrate, eroding the sediment of which old land is composed, and creating new land by emplacing fresh sediment.

His research provides models with the ability to capture the coevolution of channel sinuosity and width, so that numerical computations illustrate how meanders generate and how variations in flow bring about the development of meanders. These are effective tools for understanding the processes of meandering, which can be used in a range of engineering computations. He has also provided complex models capable of reproducing the broad range of river width–curvature correlations observed in nature. This research represents a step forward in providing general metrics for predicting width variation patterns in river systems. On a practical level, the work enables knowing what is going to happen in a reconfigured watershed before observing it.

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