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Geometry of river networks. I. Scaling, fluctuations, and deviations

Physical Review E, 63, 016115, 2001


Status: Published

Citations: 76

Cite: [bibtex]


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Abstract: This article is the first in a series of three papers investigating the detailed geometry of river networks. Branching networks are a universal structure employed in the distribution and collection of material. Large-scale river networks mark an important class of two-dimensional branching networks, being not only of intrinsic interest but also a pervasive natural phenomenon. In the description of river network structure, scaling laws are uniformly observed. Reported values of scaling exponents vary suggesting that no unique set of scaling exponents exists. To improve this current understanding of scaling in river networks and to provide a fuller description of branching network structure, here we report a theoretical and empirical study of fluctuations about and deviations from scaling. We examine data for continent-scale river networks such as the Mississippi and the Amazon and draw inspiration from a simple model of directed, random networks. We center our investigations on the scaling of the length of a sub-basin's dominant stream with its area, a characterization of basin shape known as Hack's law. We generalize this relationship to a joint probability density and provide observations and explanations of deviations from scaling. We show that fluctuations about scaling are substantial and grow with system size. We find strong deviations from scaling at small scales which can be explained by the existence of linear network structure. At intermediate scales, we find slow drifts in exponent values indicating that scaling is only approximately obeyed and that universality remains indeterminate. At large scales, we observe a breakdown in scaling due to decreasing sample space and correlations with overall basin shape. The extent of approximate scaling is significantly restricted by these deviations and will not be improved by increases in network resolution.


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Joshua Bongard - Department of Computer Science, Associate Professor

Bongard's work focuses on understanding the general nature of cognition, regardless of whether it is found in humans, animals or robots. This unique approach focuses on the role that morphology and evolution plays in cognition. Addressing these questions has taken him into the fields of biology, psychology, engineering and computer science.


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Chris Danforth -Department of Mathematics and Statistics, Flint Professor of Mathematical, Natural, and Technical Sciences

Danforth is an applied mathematician interested in modeling a variety of physical, biological, and social phenomenon. He has applied principles of chaos theory to improve weather forecasts as a member of the Mathematics and Climate Research Network, and developed a real-time remote sensor of global happiness using messages from Twitter: the Hedonometer. Danforth co-runs the Computational Story Lab with Peter Dodds, and helps run UVM's reading group on complexity.

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    Peter Sheridan Dodds , Kameron Decker Harris, Isabel M. Kloumann, Catherine A. Bliss, Christopher M. Danforth. Temporal Patterns of Happiness and Information in a Global Social Network: Hedonometrics and Twitter. PLoS ONE 2011. [Journal Page].
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    Lewis Mitchell , Morgan R. Frank, Kameron Decker Harris, Peter Sheridan Dodds, Christopher M. Danforth. The Geography of Happiness: Connecting Twitter Sentiment and Expression, Demographics, and Objective Characteristics of Place. PLoS ONE 2013. [Journal Page].
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    Andrew G Reece and Christopher M Danforth. Instagram photos reveal predictive markers of depression. EPJ Data Science 2017. [Journal Page].


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Laurent Hébert-Dufresne - Assistant Professor, Computer Science

Laurent studies the interaction of structure and dynamics. His research involves network theory, statistical physics and nonlinear dynamics along with their applications in epidemiology, ecology, biology, and sociology. Recent projects include comparing complex networks of different nature, the coevolution of human behavior and infectious diseases, understanding the role of forest shape in determining stability of tropical forests, as well as the impact of echo chambers in political discussions.

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Paul Hines - School of Engineering, Associate Professor

Hines' work broadly focuses on finding ways to make electric energy more reliable, more affordable, with less environmental impact. Particular topics of interest include understanding the mechanisms by which small problems in the power grid become large blackouts, identifying and mitigating the stresses caused by large amounts of electric vehicle charging, and quantifying the impact of high penetrations of wind/solar on electricity systems.

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James Bagrow - Assistant Professor, Department of Mathematics and Statistics

Bagrow's interests include: Complex Networks (community detection, social modeling and human dynamics, statistical phenomena, graph similarity and isomorphism), Statistical Physics (non-equilibrium methods, phase transitions, percolation, interacting particle systems, spin glasses), and Optimization(glassy techniques such as simulated/quantum annealing, (non-gradient) minimization of noisy objective functions).

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