Publication Date

11-1-2001

Degree Program

Department of Geography and Geology

Degree Type

Master of Science

Abstract

Numerous quantitative relationships have been formulated to describe the nature of surface-drainage networks. These parameters have been used in various studies of geomorphology and surface-water hydrology, such as flood characteristics, sediment yield, and evolution of basin morphology. Little progress has been made in applying these quantitative descriptors to karst flow systems due to the lack of sufficiently complete data and inadequate technology for processing the large, complex data sets. However, as a result of four decades of investigation, an abundance of data now exists for the Mammoth Cave Watershed providing the opportunity for broader quantitative research in the organization of a large, highly-developed, karst-drainage network. Developing Geographic Information System (GIS) technology has provided tools to 1) book-keep the karst system's large, complex spatial data sets, 2) analyze and quantitatively model karst processes, and 3) visualize spatially and temporally complex data. Karst aquifers display drainage characteristics that in many ways appear similar to surface networks. The purpose of my research was to explore techniques by which quantitative methods of drainage- network analysis can be applied to the organization and flow patterns in the Turnhole Bend Groundwater Basin of the Mammoth Cave Watershed. Morphometric analysis of mapped active base-flow, stream-drainage density within the Turnhole Bend Groundwater Basin resulted in values ranging from 0.24 km/km2 to 1.13 km/km2. A nearby, climatologically similar, nonkarst surface drainage system yielded a drainage density value of 1.36 km/km2. Since the mapped cave streams necessarily represent only a fraction of the total of underground streams within the study area, the actual subsurface values are likely to be much higher. A potential upper limit on perennial drainage density for the Turnhole Bend Groundwater Basin was calculated by making the assumption that each sinkhole drains at least one first-order stream. Using Anhert and Williams' (1998) average of 74 sinkholes per km2 for the Turnhole Bend Groundwater Basin, the minimum flow-length draining one km2 is 6.25-7.22 km (stated as drainage density, 6.25-7.22 km/km2). Stream ordering of cave streams and their catchments generally follow Hortonian relationships observed for surface-stream networks. Subsurface streams within the Mammoth Cave Watershed generally exhibit a converging, dendritic pattern and possess drainage basins proportionately large for their order. However, even at base-flow conditions, the Turnhole Bend drainage system continues to possess confounding characteristics. These include at least one leakage to an adjacent groundwater basin (Meiman et al., 2001), diverging streams sharing the same surface catchment (Glennon and Groves, 1997), and highly complex, three-dimensional basin boundaries (Meiman et al, 2001). In spite of the incomplete data set available for the Mammoth Cave Watershed, study of initial values suggests an orderly subsurface flow network with numerical results that allow for comparison of the karst-flow network to surface fluvial systems.

Disciplines

Geology | Hydrology