Publication Date


Advisor(s) - Committee Chair

Dr. Chris Groves (Director), Dr. Stuart Foster, Dr. Stephen Kenworthy, Kevin Cary

Degree Program

Department of Geography and Geology

Degree Type

Master of Science


ABSTRACT Karst regions of the world that receive relatively similar amounts of precipitation display a wide variety of landscapes. It has been suggested (Groves and Meiman, 2005) that climates exhibiting larger discrete storm events have more dissolving power and consequently higher rates of conduit growth than climates with more uniform precipitation distributions. To study this concept, a computer program “Cave Growth” was developed that modeled the growth of a cross-section of a cave passage under dynamic flow and chemical conditions. A series of 46 simulation datasets were created to represent different climatic conditions. These simulations had the same total annual discharge, but demonstrated a range of flow distributions quantified by use of a gamma distribution index, along with two special theoretical cases.

After simulating a year of conduit growth for each of the various flow distributions in a series of model runs, and repeating these sets of simulations for three different passage cross-section geometries, it was evident that the annual temporal distribution of flow did indeed impact the amount of cave growth. However, an increase in the “storminess” of the climate did not simply equate to more dissolution and thus conduit growth. Rather, the quantity and duration of surface contact between water and the conduit walls combined with dissolution rates to affect the total growth. The amount of wetted perimeter (contact between fluid and passage floor/walls) generated by specific conduit to capacity were shown to be very effective at growing the cave. Above this level, the dissolving power of additional water was essentially wasted. This investigation suggests that the maximum amount of passage flow levels depended upon the shape of the passage. Flow conditions that filled the growth occurs under flow conditions that result in the most wetted perimeter for the longest period of time at the highest dissolution rate.


Geography | Geology | Other Physical Sciences and Mathematics | Physical and Environmental Geography