The rarely witnessed process of river avulsion repositions channels across floodplains, which influences floodplain geomorphology and stratigraphic architecture. The way avulsions redirect water and sediment is typically generalized into one of two styles. Avulsions proceeding through rapid channel switching and producing little to no floodplain disturbance are annexational, while those that involve sequential phases of crevassing, flooding, and eventual development of a new channel are progradational. We test the validity of these avulsion style categories by mapping and characterizing 14 avulsion events in Andean, Himalayan, and New Guinean foreland basins. We use Landsat data to identify how avulsions proceed and interpret the possible products of these processes in terms of geomorphic features and stratigraphy. We show that during annexation the avulsion channel widens, changes its meander wavelength and amplitude, or increases channel thread count. During progradation, avulsion channels are constructed from evolving distributary networks. Often beginning as crevasse splays, these networks migrate down the floodplain gradient and frequently create and fill ponds during the process. We also see evidence for a recently defined third avulsion style. Retrogradation involves overbank flow, like progradation, but is marked by an upstream-migrating abandonment and infilling of the parent channel. Avulsion belts in this study range from 5 to 60 km in length, and from 1 to 50 km in width. On average, these events demonstrate annexational style over 22.4% of their length. Eleven of 13 events either begin or end with annexation, and seven both begin and end with annexation. Only one event exhibited progradation over the entire avulsion-belt length. While there are many documented examples of purely annexational avulsions, we see little evidence for completely progradational or retrogradational avulsions, and instead suggest that a given avulsion is better envisioned as a series of spatiotemporal phases of annexation, progradation, and retrogradation. Such hybrid avulsions likely produce significantly greater stratigraphic variability than that predicted by the traditional end-member model. We suggest that a time-averaged, formation-scale consideration of avulsion products will yield more accurate characterizations of avulsion dynamics in ancient fluvial systems.

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