A fan-shaped, low-angle depositional landform of predominantly fluvial origin, characterised by a distributary pattern of channels, and composed of alluvial deposits (see alluvium). Alluvial fans, also known as alluvial cones, tend to be located in the piedmont zone at the foot of a mountain or upland where rivers and streams deposit bedload at a distinct break of slope, commonly fault controlled. Unlike mountain-front river systems, alluvial fans are oriented transverse to the mountain front. They are well developed at the mouths of narrow valleys or canyons, where flow expansion occurs, leading to deposition. They typically show a concave longitudinal profile, a convex cross-profile and down-fan fining of sediment grain size. Fluvially dominated alluvial fans (fluvial fans) differ from colluvial fans dominated by debris flows (gravity-flow fans) in that the former tend to be larger, lower-angled and associated with larger, less rugged drainage basins.
Many classic examples of alluvial fans occur in arid and semi-arid settings, such as Death Valley in California. They typically have a radius of a few kilometres to tens of kilometres from apex to toe, and their deposits may be several hundred metres thick. Adjacent fans along a mountain front may coalesce to form a bajada. Alluvial fans in humid settings (humid fans) include the Kosi Fan in northern India, with a radius of 150 km from apex to toe. Alluvial fans in proglacial settings are sometimes known as outwash fans, in contrast to outwash plains (see sandur). Some river systems terminate inland at a terminal fan due to infiltration or evaporation. Alluvial fans that advance into a body of standing water are sometimes described as fan deltas.
Alluvial fan deposits are well represented in the stratigraphical record where they are an important component of the fill of many fault-controlled sedimentary basins. Their interpretation provides important sedimentological evidence of environmental change. The sedimentary facies of alluvial fan deposits can be confused with those of braided river deposits (see braiding), and the term fanglomerate has been used to describe coarse-grained sedimentary deposits attributed to alluvial fan deposition.
[See also megafan, submarine fan]
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- Late Holocene development of a Norwegian alpine alluvial fan affected by proximal glacier variations, episodic undercutting, and colluvial activity. Geomorphology 127: 198-215. ; ; ; (2011)
- Processes, facies and architecture of fluvial distributary system deposits. Sedimentary Geology 195: 75-90. ; (2007)
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- Fluvial form in modern continental sedimentary basins: Distributive fluvial systems. Geology 38: 39-42. ; ; et al. (2010)
- Pleistocene sandur deposits represent braidplains, not alluvial fans. Boreas 32: 590-611. ; (2003)
An outspread, relatively flat or gently sloping, fan- or cone-shaped mass of loose rock material that is deposited by a stream as its...
Fan-shaped area of alluvium (water-borne sediment) deposited by a river when the stream reaches a plain on lower ground, and the water...
(1873) : the alluvial deposit of a stream where it issues from a gorge upon a plain or of a tributary stream at its junction with the main stream