Calculation of the volume of an alluvial fan

  • P. M. Nanninga
  • R. J. Wasson


Calculation of the volume of a lithostratigraphic unit within an alluvial fan allows a longterm denudation rate to be calculated for the fan's catchment, where sediment is not transported beyond the fan. The calculation of denudation rates in this case depends upon accurate estimates of the volume of sediment in a lithostratigraphic unit of known age. Two methods of volume calculation and their approximations are presented. The first method sums the volume of discrete blocks used to approximate a variety of fan shapes. The second method integrates a quadratic function that approximates both the surface and lower boundary of a lithostratigraphic unit where the edges of the fan are assumed to be vertical. For fans that satisfy these restrictive assumptions, the integration method should be more accurate than the summation method. However, the summation method is more generally applicable and calculations using the two methods, and their approximations, yield remarkably similar results.

Key words

alluvial fan volume calculation denudation rates 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Dwight, H. B., 1961, Tables of integrals and other mathematical data: The Macmillian Company, New York, p. 336.Google Scholar
  2. Le Roux, J. S. and Roos, Z. N., 1982, The rate of soil erosion in the Wuras Dam catchment calculated from sediments trapped in the dam: Z. Geomorph. N.F., v. 26, no. 3, p. 315–329.Google Scholar
  3. Murata, T., 1966, A theoretical study of the forms of alluvial fans: Geographical Reports of Tokyo Metropolitan University, vol. 1, p. 33–43.Google Scholar
  4. Saunders, I. and Young, A., 1983, Rates of surface processes on slopes, slope retreat and denudation: Earth Surf. Proc. Land., v. 8, p. 473–502.Google Scholar
  5. Troeh, F. R., 1965, Landform equations fitted to contour maps: Amer. Jour. Sci., v. 263, p. 616–627.Google Scholar
  6. Wasson, R. J., 1975, Australian landform example no. 27. Alluvial fan: Aust. Geogr., v. 13, p. 157–159.Google Scholar
  7. Wasson, R. J., 1979, Sedimentation history of the Mundi Mundi alluvial fans, western New South Wales: Sedi. Geol., v. 22, p. 21–51.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 1985

Authors and Affiliations

  • P. M. Nanninga
    • 1
  • R. J. Wasson
    • 1
  1. 1.Division of Water and Land ResourcesCSIROCanberraAustralia

Personalised recommendations