Many geologic systems are at present only partially specified, in that the variables and positive and negative feedback loops are known but the exact functional relationships among variables are not. It is still possible to describe the response of these systems to a perturbation by analyzing the eigenvalues derived from the coefficient matrix of the system equations evaluated near an equilibrium point. The method predicts that a simple model of stream at-a-station hydraulic geometry is metastable provided the relative rates of change of friction factor, hydraulic radius, and slope are large, intermediate, and small, respectively.

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