Hack distributions of rill networks and nonlinear slope length-soil loss relationships

Tyler H. Doane, Jon D. Pelletier, Mary H. Nichols

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Surface flow on rilled hillslopes tends to produce sediment yields that scale nonlinearly with total hillslope length. The widespread observation lacks a single unifying theory for such a nonlinear relationship.We explore the contribution of rill network geometry to the observed yield length scaling relationship. Relying on an idealized network geometry, we formally develop probability functions for geometric variables of contributing area and rill length. In doing so, we contribute towards a complete probabilistic foundation for the Hack distribution. Using deterministic and empirical functions, we then extend the probability theory to the hydraulic variables that are related to sediment detachment and transport. A Monte Carlo simulation samples hydraulic variables from hillslopes of different lengths to provide estimates of sediment yield. The results of this analysis demonstrate a nonlinear yield length relationship as a result of the rill network geometry. Theory is supported by numerical modeling, wherein surface flow is routed over an idealized numerical surface and a natural surface from northern Arizona. Numerical flow routing demonstrates probability functions that resemble the theoretical ones. This work provides a unique application of the Scheidegger network to hillslope settings which, because of their finite lengths, result in unique probability functions. We have addressed sediment yields on rilled slopes and have contributed towards understanding Hack s law from a probabilistic reasoning.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)317-331
Number of pages15
JournalEarth Surface Dynamics
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 16 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geophysics
  • Earth-Surface Processes


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