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The rivers of Southern California deliver episodic pulses of water, sediment, nutrients, and pollutants to the region's coastal waters. Although river-sediment dispersal is observed in positively buoyant (hypopycnal) turbid plumes extending tens of kilometers from river mouths, very little of the river sediment is found in these plumes. Rather, river sediment settles quickly from hypopycnal plumes to the seabed, where transport is controlled by bottom-boundary layer processes, presumably including fluid-mud (hyperpycnal) gravity currents. Here we investigate the geographical patterns of river-sediment dispersal processes by examining suspended-sediment concentrations and loads and the continental shelf morphology offshore river mouths. Throughout Southern California,...

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