Strahler 1952 and Rouse 1937: Hypsometry and Suspended Sediment Concentration

I was reading various geomorphology literature from the 1950s to prepare for teaching. Personally I find that older literature is often fun to read — the writing tends to be more verbose than the terse modern scientific style, and often little interesting tidbits emerge. I will note one here:

In Strahler (1952) the equation for a hypsometric curve (the curves that denote the elevation-area relationship for a given drainage basin) seem to be based on work by Rouse (1937) that describe an entirely different phenomena — the vertical concentration of suspended sediment in a river. (see page 1121 of Strahler (1952), footnote 2 at the bottom of the page). Strange connection between these two topics.

Additionally, I find it interesting to note that Rouse’s equation for the vertical concentration of suspended sediment, and its associated suspended sediment load parameter (which is now called the Rouse Number) did NOT appear in the main paper by Rouse — it appeared in the comments and discussion section, published after the main article text. I see this as an example of the value in feedback from others…


  • Rouse, H. (1937). Modern conceptions of the mechanics or fluid turbulence. Transactions of the American Society of Civil Engineers, 102(1), 463-505.

  • Strahler, A. N. (1952). Hypsometric (area-altitude) analysis of erosional topography. Geological Society of America Bulletin, 63(11), 1117-1142.

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