Long-Standing Scientific Enigma Solved: Ground-Breaking Discovery Finally Proves Rain Really Can Move Mountains - SciTechDaily
Oct 16, 2020 1 min, 55 secs
October 16, 2020.

The dramatic effect rainfall has on the evolution of mountainous landscapes is widely debated among geologists, but new research led by the University of Bristol and published today in Science Advances, clearly calculates its impact, furthering our understanding of how peaks and valleys have developed over millions of years.

Byron Adams, Royal Society Dorothy Hodgkin Fellow at the university’s Cabot Institute for the Environment, said: “It may seem intuitive that more rain can shape mountains by making rivers cut down into rocks faster.

The study was based in the central and eastern Himalaya of Bhutan and Nepal, because this region of the world has become one of the most sampled landscapes for erosion rate studies.

Adams, together with collaborators from Arizona State University (ASU) and Louisiana State University, used cosmic clocks within sand grains to measure the speed at which rivers erode the rocks beneath them.

By counting how many atoms of this element are present in a bag of sand, we can calculate how long the sand has been there, and therefore how quickly the landscape has been eroding,” Dr Adams said.

“Once we have erosion rates from all over the mountain range, we can compare them with variations in river steepness and rainfall.

Adams overcame this challenge by combining regression techniques with numerical models of how rivers erode.

Adams said.

Research collaborator Professor Kelin Whipple, Professor of Geology at ASU, said: “Our findings show how critical it is to account for rainfall when assessing patterns of tectonic activity using topography, and also provide an essential step forward in addressing how much the slip rate on tectonic faults may be controlled by climate-driven erosion at the surface.”.

Adams added: “Our data and analysis provides an effective tool for estimating patterns of erosion in mountainous landscapes such as the Himalaya, and thus, can provide invaluable insight into the hazards that influence the hundreds of millions of people who live within and at the foot of these mountains.”.

Adams is currently exploring how landscapes respond after large volcanic eruptions.

With our cutting-edge techniques to measure erosion rates and rock properties, we will be able to better understand how rivers and volcanoes have influenced each other in the past,” Dr

Adams said

Reference: 16 October 2020, Science Advances

October 14, 2020

October 14, 2020

October 14, 2020

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