Glacial geomorphology, fluvial geomorphology, hillslope geomorphology, submarine geomorphology, tectonic geomorphology...

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Friday, 19 November 2010


It's that time of year again! The Fall Meeting of the American Geophysical Union, 13th-17th December, will feature 7 presentations involving ESPM members. Needless to say we are all rather busy...

In no particular order (to view abstracts, first click on the "Search Fall Meeting Program" link on this page, then the links should become active):

Identifying climate change signals in the late Quaternary gravel-bed, braided river stratigraphy of the Canterbury Plains, New Zealand. M. A. Jones; A. V. Rowan; S. J. Covey-Crump; S. H. Brocklehurst; H. M. Roberts; G. A. Duller. abstract presenter

Tectonic signals in glaciated landscapes: the importance of scale (Invited). S. H. Brocklehurst. abstract presenter

Linking onshore and offshore erosion and sediment transport in the Strait of Messina, Italy. R. Goswami; N. C. Mitchell; S. H. Brocklehurst; A. Argnani. abstract presenter

Numerical modelling of climatically-driven drainage capture and sediment flux, South Island, New Zealand. A. V. Rowan; M. A. Plummer; S. H. Brocklehurst; M. A. Jones. abstract presenter

The role of antecedent drainage networks and isolated normal fault propagation on basin stratigraphy. E. Finch; S. H. Brocklehurst; R. Gawthorpe. abstract presenter

The influence of interacting normal faults on drainage network evolution and basin stratigraphy. S. H. Brocklehurst; E. Finch; R. Gawthorpe. abstract presenter

Landscape Response to Active Extensional Faulting and Multiple Local Base Levels: The Perachora Peninsula, Eastern Gulf of Corinth, Greece. O. Bujanowski-Duffy; S. H. Brocklehurst; R. L. Gawthorpe; E. Finch. abstract presenter

Thursday, 7 October 2010

Why Waiho?

Waiho Loop moraine, South Island, New Zealand [From] 
A little background ahead of our discussion of New Zealand's climate tomorrow. Many discussions of this subject come down to the Waiho Loop, a spectacular moraine ridge formed by the equally famous Franz Josef glacier on the western side of the Southern Alps - in the picture above its the dark green thing that looks like a moustache. Various dating campaigns have placed the age of the Loop at ~13 ka, and the original C14 ages agree closely with C14 ages for Younger Dryas (YD) moraines in the Northern Hemisphere. These were checked in 2007 due to the high variability in dates from Waiho Loop carbon, and placed slightly earlier, at the end of the Antarctic Cold Reversal (ACR). It has also been argued that the Loop is not a climate signal, and formed independently of cooling, with the glacier advancing due to rock fall onto its surface, although modelling would suggest otherwise.

As several recent and not-so-recent papers have pointed out, there is plenty of evidence for a climate origin of the Waiho Loop, so it's age needs to be incorporated into any interpretation of ACR/YD climate. Problems with the C14 age, from both contamination with younger carbon making ages too old to degradation of the dated material making ages too young have been debated. The C14 age also does not fit with marine core and pollen data, although the reliability of these has been questioned. The Waiho Loop is classically attributed to the YD, and so cited as evidence of synchronous inter-hemispheric climate change, but more recent studies suggest it is older, indicating an ACR advance in New Zealand, and so a wide-ranging Southern Hemisphere cooling event. 

Putnam et al (2010)'s recent study of the Pukaki glaciers confirms that eastern South Island glaciers advanced during the ACR then rapidly retreated when the YD started. This is corroborated by Kaplan et al. (2010)'s study at Irishman's Stream, and they attribute the Waiho Loop to the ACR rather than the YD. They imply asynchronous global climate change, potentially due to migration of major wind systems at this time. So is the date of the Waiho Loop correct, and if so, how should it be interpreted in context of other glacial records from New Zealand and climate teleconnections?

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

NZ-YD#2: Maybe the Waiho Loop is a climate signal

Kaplan et al., (2010), Figure 2. Central Southern Alps about 13 000 yr ago
Michael Kaplan is back in the New Zealand Younger Dryas debate this week, as coauthor with Aaron Putnam et al. in Nature Geoscience. This investigation of the Birch Hill moraine, again using 10Be cosmogenic dates, shows that the Antarctic Cold Reversal (ACR) did cause glacial advance in the Pukaki catchment at 12.97 ka and a similar expansion of the nearby Macaulay glacier, so the ACR is likely to have been a Southern Hemisphere-wide cooling event. This provides further weight to the bipolar seesaw hypothesis; simply that one hemisphere cools whilst the other warms. These results also correspond to a climatic driver for the Franz Josef glacier advancing to form the Waiho Loop moraine, rather than the landslide origin proposed by Tovar et al., (2008) amongst others, as evidence against a Younger Dryas in New Zealand. A climate origin for this moraine would indicate ACR cooling in New Zealand that occurred asynchronously to the Northern Hemisphere YD. So was New Zealand warm or cold between 13-11 ka? An ongoing discussion...

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Occasional YouTube video #7 - Debris flow with car-sized clasts

Speaks for itself... (action starts around 1:09)

As posted on Dave's Landslide Blog, where it was suggested by Ivan Montanari. Atrani lies in a reasonably precarious position on the Amalfi coast in Italy.

Monday, 13 September 2010

NZ-YD#1: No evidence for a Southern Hemisphere Younger Dryas?

Irishman's Stream, New Zealand
The presence of a Younger Dryas (YD, ~13-12 ka) cooling event in New Zealand has been much discussed as it would provide a useful correlation to the Northern Hemisphere cooling at this time, and so indicate if glacial-interglacial cycles in either hemisphere occur synchronously or sequentially. South Island's Waiho Loop moraine was previously considered to represent the YD, but recent research by Tovar et al. at Canterbury University revealed its landslide origin. A paper in Nature this week by Kaplan et al. has shown from an investigation of glacial events in Irishman's Stream, using very high resolution 10Be dating, that this glacier retreated consistently throughout the period of the YD. This suggests that during a Northern Hemisphere glacial the Southern Hemisphere is warming, which may be due to a southward shift in warm climate systems, or a more extreme seasonality between the poles during cooling. In fact, our understanding of the climate of this area is changing rapidly; Shulmeister et al. extend the start of the Last Glacial Maximum in New Zealand by 2 kyr to ~24 ka, again using cosmogenic dating.

Sunday, 12 September 2010

Do glaciers reset the luminescence signal of the sediment at their base?

Haut Glacier d'Arolla, Switzerland
Lots of interesting discussions at last week's UK TL/OSL/ESR conference at Oxford University, but of particular interest to geomorphologists was Mark Bateman's talk 'Do glaciers reset their beds?'. Mark told us about the work that he and Darrel Swift are doing at Sheffield to investigate the effect of subglacial transport on the luminescence signal of basal sediments, which is about to be published in Boreas. Darrel drilled a core through the Haut Glacier d'Arolla, Switzerland to collect sediment from its base for initial luminescence measurements. Then they moved the lab, using a ring-shear 'donut' machine to recreate subglacial stresses on quartz sand with substantial known luminescence characteristics.This indicated that increased strain increases the number of zero dose grains and reduces the overall paleodose of the sediment. So yes, it would appear that glaciers do reset their beds, raising the possibility of using luminescence to date glacial retreat stages and sediment transport to a high resolution.

Thursday, 5 August 2010

Tectonic Geomorphology - L'Aquila

On the 6th April 2009, a 5.9 magnitude earthquake hit the Abruzzo region of Central Italy, killing over 300 people. The area lies within the Central Apennines and is undergoing extension along NW-SE trending faults in relation to back-arc extension in the Tyrrehenian Sea and Afro-Eurasia collision.
Geologists claim to have predicted the 2009 earthquake in L'Aquila one month prior to the event, using evidence from Radon emission patterns. However, these views were seen as overly 'alarmist' by the Italian director of Civil Defence. Since the earthquake, and to much furore, Italian geologists and officials have been indicted for manslaughter for not predicting the 2009 L'Aquila earthquake. This step has caused disillusionment amongst many reknowned structural geologists and seismologists who understand the difficulty in predicting the precise location (and more importantly, timing) of earthquake events.

Have a fly around on google earth and have a look at the tectonic geomorphology of the region. Note the bell-shaped displacement profiles of the major fault segments, the relay zones and the major backtilted fault blocks. How do you think the soft lake sediments on which the city is built influenced the severity of the earthquake? Why was the city built in this location in the first place? Which areas would you think are at risk of rupture based on the current landscape? How has the drainage interacted with the fault segments?

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Bedrock channel erosion in the lab

Joel Johnson and Kelin Whipple have just had another interesting article on bedrock channel erosion published. Here they circumvent the usual problem of the unmanageable timescales of laboratory erosion experiments by employing a "bedrock" made of weak concrete. The principle aim of the study is to examine the role of sediment in bedrock erosion, both as a tool for erosion, and as a protective blanket on the channel bed. They found a linear increase of erosion rate with sediment flux, and a linear decrease of erosion rate with alluvial bed cover, while also highlighting the importance of local bed topography on bed cover. Important results from an elegant experimental set-up!

Here are some previous publications from the pair, an informed combination of careful laboratory and field studies.

Johnson J P and K X Whipple (2007). Feedbacks between erosion and sediment transport in experimental bedrock channels. Earth Surface Processes and Landforms, 32 (7), p. 1048-1062, DOI: 10.1002/esp.1471.

Johnson, J. P. L., K. X. Whipple, L. S. Sklar, and T. C. Hanks (2009), Transport slopes, sediment cover, and bedrock channel incision in the Henry Mountains, Utah. J. Geophys. Res., 114, F02014, doi:10.1029/2007JF000862.

Johnson, J. P. L., K. X. Whipple, and L. S. Sklar (2010), Contrasting bedrock incision rates from snowmelt and flash floods in the Henry Mountains, Utah. GSA Bulletin, 122 (9-10), p. 1600-1615.

Wednesday, 30 June 2010

Even the geomorphology is bigger (faster) in Texas!

View Larger Map

This week in Nature Geoscience, Michael Lamb and Mark Fonstad report the incision of Canyon Lake Gorge, Texas, during a single dam-release flood event in 2002. This well-constrained flood event moved metre-sized boulders, excavated ~7m of limestone and transformed a soil-mantled valley into a bedrock canyon in only ~3days! Not quite a natural flood event, but quite spectacular and informative all the same. View Canyon Lake in Google Earth here.

Wednesday, 9 June 2010

Martian geomorphology (and geology) update

The 1st June issue of Earth and Planetary Science Letters is a special volume devoted to the Mars Express mission, and recent progress on our geological and geomorphological understanding of the Martian surface. The 28 articles include many specifically about geomorphology, including:

- Jaumann et al. describe multiple erosional events across 2.8 billion years, driven by very intermittent flow from multiple water sources, in the The Western Libya Montes Valley System

- Erkeling et al. report a similarly multi-genetic evolution of valley networks in the eastern Libya Montes, formed by a combination of surface runoff and groundwater-induced processes over ~800 million years

- Head et al. discuss evidence for debris-covered glaciers operating in the Late Amazonian period

- Dickson et al. take a detailed look at crater morphology at the Phlegra Montes (specifically overtopping by ice) to reveal occupation by ice 1 km thick in the Late Amazonian

- Kneissl et al. describe a detailed analysis of the distribution and orientation of gullies on the Martian surface, which revealed that formation mechanisms based on atmospheric water-ice deposition are more likely than processes related to groundwater flow

- Levy et al. contribute to the ongoing debate over the origin of gullies on Mars - dry granular flows and landslides, wet debris flows, or fluvial erosion and alluvial deposition? Their detailed morphological analysis of lobate structures in Protonilus Mensae indicates these at least were formed by wet debris flows

- Kleinhans et al. detail a simple numerical model for alluvial fan and delta development that indicates that features seen on Mars result from single flow events lasting days to years.

Wednesday, 2 June 2010

"Tectonics and geomorphology" review article published

Simon's review paper, "Tectonics and geomorphology", has just been published in Progress in Physical Geography. The review attempts to summarise the status of fluvial, hillslope, glacial and submarine geomorphology in relation to active tectonics (at the time of writing). This means both attempts to use geomorphology to infer something about the tectonics, and exploiting active tectonics settings to further our understanding of geomorphological processes. The article is part of a special volume of Progress in Physical Geography on the future of geomorphology, which also contains a number of other interesting articles.

Please email Simon if you are unable to access the article.

Saturday, 15 May 2010

Weathering, erosion rates, and late Cenozoic cooling

Raymo and Ruddiman (1992) advocated mountain building as a driver of climate change. Molnar and England (1990) pointed to the ambiguities of the sedimentary record (increased sediment flux could be triggered by uplift or climate change) and suggested that erosion in response to climate change could drive peak uplift. In Nature this week, Willenbring and von Blanckenburg present a new contribution to the debate on the relationship between climate (specifically late Cenozoic cooling), weathering, erosion and atmospheric CO2 . They use the marine 10Be/9Be isotope system as a proxy for global weathering rates, and infer steady erosion rates for the last ~12 Myr. Hence, according to their evidence, weathering is not responsible for global cooling, but neither does global cooling trigger enhanced erosion.

Friday, 7 May 2010

Which DEM are you using?

Jonathan de Ferranti maintains Viewfinder Panoramas, which features some interesting discussion of DEM quality issues and virtual globes, as well as his own DEMs for download, and information on other sources of topographic data. Well worth reading, and especially viewing his visual comparisons of how well different datasets (including GoogleEarth) capture some well-known mountains. The image above shows (or rather, doesn't show) Everest as rendered by one of the popular virtual globes...

Monday, 3 May 2010

Useful graph digitising software

DigitizeIt is useful for those times when someone gives you a print out of a graph, you want to compare data from a published plot to your own or you work for an oil company and your data is from the 70s. This is much quicker and easier than reading off values and plotting them yourself, just define the axes and get clicking, then copy data out or make an ascii. It's shareware, not freeware, so the licence is £44.

Friday, 30 April 2010

Modelling glacial mass balance

Lots of talk about glacial modelling this week after Roger Braithwaite's talk, which included New Zealand as the place with the highest glacial fluxes and mass balance sensitivity in the IPCC reports. A particular favourite at the moment is the recent Anderson et al., (2010) paper looking at the response of the Brewster Glacier to climate change. Their results show the huge sensitivity of New Zealand's glaciers to even a small rise in temperature, which has significant implications for global sea level.

Sunday, 25 April 2010

Occasional YouTube video #6 - Eyjafjallajökull jökulhlaup

Just a reminder that ash clouds aren't the only consequences of Icelandic eruptions...

Friday, 23 April 2010

Pseudo-weekly GoogleEarth placemark #8 - La Hermida Gorge

La Hermida Gorge is the undoubted geomorphological highlight of the University of Manchester 3rd year trip to northern Spain. Incised into the Carboniferous limestones of the Picos de Europa thrust sheet, the relief in the gorge exceeds 1km in places. The road weaves its way down the gorge between Potes and Panes (ha, ha - lost on the Spaniards), passing through Lebena and La Hermida. Several times it crosses bridges to afford a great view of the Rio Deva, while frequent metal netting is deployed to try to catch the rockfall from the valley slides. Features on display include giant rockfall boulders, caves, scree cones and terraces. A spectacular setting, well worth the visit, though perhaps not the best place for a nervous driver...

Thursday, 22 April 2010

Soapbox moment

The sell-out public lecture by Prof. Brian Cox at the University of Manchester last night went down a storm to a packed house of staff, students, schools and the general public. Questions ranged from the sublime to the ridiculous, a small kid asking "why can we sometimes see the moon and the sun at the same time?" making a bit of light relief from some serious inquiries as to why the Higgs boson might have mass.
However, apart from a whirlwind tour of the Large Hadron Collider and the beautifully simple equation that describes how the three most important forces of nature work (gravity doesn't count), Brian was keen to discuss UK government funding for science in the run-up to next month's general election. Whilst as a BBC employee, he was not allowed to tell us who he would be voting for, he could impartially say that in relation to science funding budgets, the Lib Dems' manifesto is the most detailed, and that the proposed 1% increase in national insurance would produce revenue that could potentially triple science funding. This graphic from the Guardian was included in his slides to illustrate the current level of funding;

(The black circle top left is total UK research funding for sciences and humanities)

CERN meanwhile costs each British taxpayer £2.80 per year - very good value!

Converting New Zealand grids

Land Information New Zealand (LINZ) has a very easy-to-use handy tool to convert between the various geodetic datums used in New Zealand and UTM, or any other datum that you might like to use. Useful as most of the data available is given using the local grid, which is difficult for a program such as Matlab to understand.

Monday, 19 April 2010

Success for ESPM researcher

Basin Research Studentship Prize 2009

Good news this week within ESPM as Basin Research announced the winner of the 2009 Basin Research Studentship Prize. Our very own superwoman Deborah McCormack (see above) was highly commended for her poster titled 'Linkages between Gulf Stream behaviour and ice-marginal landsystems during the deglaciation of northern Scotland' at the Annual AGU Conference in San Francisco (December 2009). This follows hot on the heels of a similar flying success this time last year by David Foster, for his studies of glacial buzzsaw along with climatic and tectonic feedbacks in the Basin and Range Province, USA.

Sunday, 18 April 2010

Brian Cox explains what luminescence is


Sometimes it needs a physicist to make things clearer. After months of luminescence dating (OSL) and still struggling with the "so, electrons in a grain of quartz, energy goes in, electrons get trapped, more energy and then they jump out, releasing photons..." arm-waving explanation of what luminescence dating is actually measuring, it was nice to see Prof. Brian Cox doing a better job of it, whilst explaining time itself, in this clip from BBC2's Horizon 'How Do We Know What Time It Is?'.

Brian will be giving a lecture at the University of Manchester this week, discussing the universe. His brand of rockstar-physicist (TM) astronomy has proved so popular that all the tickets were snapped up in 12 hours, but a live webcast of the lecture can be viewed online.

Monday, 12 April 2010

Pseudo-weekly GoogleEarth placemark #7 - Cotahuasi-Ocoña Canyon

Understanding canyon incision on the margins of the Andes illuminates the uplift history of the range. Cotahuasi-Ocoña Canyon is one of the deeply incised canyons along the western edge of the Andes. Schildgen et al. have just published a study of canyon incision and knickpoint migration, using apatite 3He/4He thermochronometry. While the technique, based on the spatial distribution of 4He within an apatite grain, is a bit of a head-scratcher, especially to non-geochemists, it is extremely powerful, giving a detailed cooling/exhumation history from a single grain, rather than the multiple samples that more traditional thermochronological techniques require. Schildgen et al. deduce that the incision of the Cotahuasi-Ocoña canyon took place by knickpoint migration, rather than the uniform onset of rapid incision.

Friday, 9 April 2010

Pseudo-weekly GoogleEarth placemark #6 - Denali (Mt McKinley)

Denali has the greatest relief of any mountain on Earth, and so represents an important exception to the glacial buzzsaw hypothesis... The height is due to the strength of the granites it is made from, and uplift due a bend in the Denali Fault (which has also moved Denali from ~200 miles further east since it started rising about ~5 Ma).

Some additional GoogleEarth resources for Denali:
US National Parks layer
Topographic map overlay
USGS Real-time earthquakes

The 3rd November, 2002 Denali Fault earthquake was actually ~100 km east of Denali. Resources for this include a comprehensive multimedia gallery and a surface rupture map available in various formats.

Thursday, 8 April 2010

It's official! Mt Everest is 8848m tall... or is it?

Controversy reigns over the height of the world's tallest mountain! News comes today that Nepal and China have finally agreed that the sensible way to measure Mt Everest/Chomolungma/Qomolangma/Sagarmatha is to the top of the rock, rather than the top of the snow, and that they have settled on the height determined by an Indian survey in 1955, 8,848m. However, the National Geographic Society disagrees; in their expedition of May 1999, the height was surveyed using GPS to be 8,850m. That's apparently 2m of uplift in 44 years, 45mm/yr! At that rate it's probably 8,850.5m by now...

(Mostly) Free GoogleEarth tools

Yet another good thing to come out of Idaho, Earth Point is a collection of free (at a limited use level; first 200 lines) GoogleEarth tools developed by Bill Clark that allow users to do useful things such as convert lat/long data from an Excel spreadsheet to a .kml file that can then be viewed in GoogleEarth. Unlimited use is very reasonably a fraction of a penny per line, or free for academic use. I've been using it to make nice maps of climate data collection stations in New Zealand.

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

Possibly even more occasional book review - Stop what you're writing, and read this

Not only is David Schultz the newest addition to Atmospheric Science at the University of Manchester and our favourite expert on orographic precipitation, he is also the author of the excellent Eloquent Science, a practical guide to becoming a better writer, speaker and atmospheric scientist. Covering such essential topics as how to plan your manuscript, use the much-abused colon and make beautiful figures for scientific publications, this book opens up the possibilities of how to share science without putting the conference room to sleep. Also covered in practical detail are many topics of interest to any research scientist, including how to resolve ordering of author lists and so have happy collaborators, make presentation slides that don't need ibuprofen to sit through, all round 'be a better researcher' advice and it is of course a pleasure to read! Apart from being very glad I read this before making a start on the thesis I think it would also have been great to learn the principles of effective communication as an undergrad.

Available from

Occasional YouTube video #5 - Surging glacier

To follow the glacier time-lapse photography videos, here's some time-lapse footage of the 1982-1983 surge of Variegated Glacier, Alaska. As a special bonus, this one also has a fun soundtrack...

Sunday, 4 April 2010

Thursday, 1 April 2010

OS Maps for all!

The Ordnance Survey has started free download of its maps. The free products can be accessed directly here (although the site has been slow today...) Hopefully it will make life considerably easier for anyone working on the geomorphology of the UK (and searching for a little more information than GoogleEarth provides...! Click here for further commentary and a guide to what is available.

Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Where did the water go?

© 2010 Nature Publishing Group

The freshwater released by the melting of the Laurentide Ice Sheet has been hypothesised to have impeded the meridional overturning (thermohaline) circulation of the North Atlantic, triggering the Younger Dryas cooling event. The melting ice would have formed Lake Agassiz, but how did the water get from there to the oceans? A new study just published in Nature by Murton et al. combines field observations, isostatic modelling and optically-stimulated luminescence dating to counter the traditional view that the water must have drained to the North Atlantic along the St Lawrence River, instead advocating a path along the Mackenzie River to the Arctic Ocean.

Controls on landslide volume

Hot on the heels of our visit to the Coldside and Mam Tor landslides comes the publication in Nature Geoscience of a study by Larsen, Montgomery and Korup on the impact of different hillslope materials on the volume-area scaling relationship for landslides. Although Larsen et al. arrive at different scaling relationships for deep bedrock and shallow soil landslides, in either case the erosion rate can match the most rapid rates of tectonic uplift. No English landslides in the dataset, but other than that it's an impressively comprehensive and thought-provoking compilation.

Tuesday, 30 March 2010

John Stevenson seminar - GIS tools

John Stevenson gave a fantastic SEAES seminar today, "Lava flows, lasers and Linux", covering a range of topics, including:

-the mdenoise algorithm for sensible smoothing of topographic data (an improvement on the default "moving window" filtering algorithms in GIS software), and its application to SRTM topographic data;

- using NERC ARSF LiDAR data to investigate volcanic processes in Iceland;

- open-source GIS software, including GRASS GIS, GPSBabel, GDAL, FWTools, and Arramagong, a complete Xubuntu LiveDVD loaded with GIS software; and

- the ongoing Eyjafjallajokull eruption in Iceland

Not particularly focussed on geomorphology, but very enjoyable and informative all the same!

Edale Geomorphology #2

The group photo from Mam Tor trig point!
Back row, from left: Rajasmita Goswami, Ann Rowan, Simon Brocklehurst, Duncan Irving, Olly Bujanowski-Duffy and Joss Smith.
Front row, from left: Masroor Rasheed, Allison Cougan, Emma Finch, Debs McCormack and Tom Brooks.

Monday, 29 March 2010

Edale Geomorphology in the Rain

It turned out to be a rather wet and misty day in the Peak District today, which rather hindered our views, though the cloud did fortuitously clear momentarily as we stood on Hollins Cross, affording this view of the Mam Tor Landslide. The rain continued to fall heavily, though, so our appreciation of the Coalside Landslide, and utilisation of the home-made inclinometer, were not what they might have been. Nevertheless, it seemed that everyone enjoyed the day out, and we all learned about the origin of the name Peak District, if nothing else.

Sunday, 28 March 2010

Geomorphology educational resources

Paul Bierman and David Montgomery are leading the Key Concepts in Geomorphology project, which features a community-supported textbook accompanied by Vignettes, a series of >100 stand-alone, illustrated online geomorphological case studies, and Imaging Earth's Surface, an online geomorphology image database with >1500 photos.

Bob Anderson
's Little Book of Geomorphology is packed with clearly explained examples of his quantitative approach to geomorphology, and is freely available for download for educational purposes, provided that you let Bob know how you're using it, and point out any errors.

Saturday, 27 March 2010

Pseudo-weekly GoogleEarth Placemark #5 - Coldside Landslide, Edale

On the opposite flank of Mam Tor from the more famous Mam Tor Landslide, the Coldside Landslide will be one of the stops on Monday's Basin Studies Geomorphology Field Trip to Edale. After a long, severe winter we're finally getting out to look at some of the geomorphology on our doorstep. This landslide is not active now, but neither is it a postglacial feature. Rather, the landslide occurred in the mid-Flandrian (i.e., ~5,700 years ago), as discussed here.

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Pseudo-weekly GoogleEarth placemark #4 - Aoraki/Mt. Cook

Aoraki or Mt. Cook is the highest point in New Zealand at 3754 m above sealevel, seen here viewing the east and Caroline faces, with Mt. Tasman to the right making up the main divide of the Southern Alps. Abel Tasman was the first European to sight Aoraki in 1642, and the glacier that bears his name flows across the foreground. In 1991, Aoraki famously became 12 m shorter, much to the annoyance of local climbers, after a massive landslide of 12m cubic metres of rock zoomed down the east face at 200 km per hour. However, as one of the most rapidly uplifting areas on Earth, Aoraki gains 10 mm in elevation each year (or would do if it wasn't eroded at pretty much the same rate!), producing huge amounts of sediment within the valleys of the central Southern Alps.

Cycling and geomorphology! (sort of...)

Enjoyed the North America episode of Mark Beaumont's The Man Who Cycled the Americas last night, spectacular scenery and an amazing journey. Could have made more of the geomorphology (e.g., why is Denali so tall, with more relief than Everest?), but otherwise very enjoyable. Catch it on the BBC iPlayer if you missed it (and live in the UK), with two more episodes (Central and South America) still to come.

Saturday, 20 March 2010

Landscapes into Rock

The Landscapes into Rock conference, the 2010 William Smith Meeting of the Geological Society of London, will take place from the 21st to 23rd September, 2010. Themes include:
The Erosional Engine
The Dynamics of Sediment Routing Systems
Landscapes into Rock: the Making of Stratigraphy
Integrative Studies of Sediment Routing and the Petroleum System

An impressive selection of keynote speakers is already in place, and this should prove to be a fascinating, wide-ranging conference. The deadline for abstract submission is 31st May, and submissions are already being accepted. Registration will open in May. Click here for more details. Get your abstracts in!

Thursday, 18 March 2010

Oil-free 3D seismic!

While traditional applications of 3D seismic data undoubtedly underpin much of the work of our colleagues in Basin Studies and Petroleum Geoscience, it's refreshing to see this distinctly geomorphological application of 3D seismic data. Vardy et al. (in press) have used 3D seismic data shot in Lake Windermere, Cumbria, NW England, to map debris flow and mass transfer deposits from the termination of the Younger Dryas cooling event. These were derived from the reworking of till, glacial outwash, and lacustrine deposits.

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Pseudo-weekly GoogleEarth placemark #3 - Rangitata River

The mighty Rangitata River flows from the main divide of New Zealand's Southern Alps across the Canterbury Plains to the east coast of South Island, where the coastal stratigraphy records at least the last 30 ka of the river's history. As this includes New Zealand's LGM (22-18 ka) we can use these sediments to investigate the response of the Rangitata, and the neighbouring Ashburton and Rakaia Rivers, to glacial-interglacial cycles.
In these rivers' headwaters, GoogleEarth provides high-res imagery of glacial geomorphology that indicates the frequent and rapid glacial advances that have occurred in this area since the LGM.

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

GoogleEarth - with commentary!

Simon Brocklehurst will be providing an audio commentary to his fiddling with GoogleEarth in a seminar on "GoogleEarth and Geology: Resources and Research applications" in the SEAES Seminar Series this afternoon (Tuesday 16th March, 4:15pm, G.03, Williamson Building). There will be some mention of geological resources, but of course most of the applications will be geomorphological...

Monday, 15 March 2010

Occasional YouTube video #1 - Modelling glacial erosion

David Egholm has posted a video of the numerical model of glacial erosion described in Nature (Egholm et al., 2009), illustrating what would happen if the Spanish Sierra Nevada (largely unglaciated during the Quaternary) were subjected to dramatic climate cooling and subsequent substantial glacial erosion. This is definitely a major development compared with previous glacial landscape evolution models, so watch out for more from David and his PhD student Vivi Pedersen as they continue their research into glacial erosion using their new model (more details about the model are available from JGR-ES here), and new topographic analyses.

Friday, 12 March 2010

Pseudo-weekly Google Earth Placemark #2 - Canyonlands

The ESPM discussion meeting this week was focused on Wobus et al. (2006) and the principles used to determine tectonic signals through analysis of DEMs. Hence, the increasingly popular ESPM google earth placemark has this week found its way to Canyonlands, USA (click here). Here we see a spectacular fault-controlled landscape associated with regional extension above a mobile salt substrate. The faults are seen to be segmented along-strike and in various stages of linkage. This has caused the drainage pattern to shift from the typical dendritic form to trellised as the channels migrate axially along-strike of the faults and through displacement lows at relay ramps between fault segments (see just north of placemark where the channel migrates around a propagating fault tip).

Have a fly around, can you spot any other evidence of fault-drainage interaction?

Thursday, 11 March 2010

Mediterranean glaciations

Phil Hughes crossed Oxford Road from the School of Environment and Development today to deliver a very stimulating Basins seminar on glaciations throughout the Mediterranean, covering Greece, the Balkans, Spain and Morocco. There's a surprising amount of evidence available, and Phil's dating efforts have shown that the moraines etc. are not all from the Last Glacial Maximum (despite what you might read in Science)! Some minimum ages from glacial moraines are as old as 350,000 years ago, while Phil has also discovered evidence of Younger Dryas readvances, and some previously unrecognised glaciers in Albania that still linger on.

Further details about the Albanian glaciers are available in Phil's recent Arctic, Antarctic, and Alpine Research article, and you can also read about Phil's explanation for the surprising Little Ice Age glaciations in Montenegro, and the conflicting palaeoecological and glacial evidence regarding whether the Mediterranean LGM was cold and dry, or cold and wet. Watch out for further updates on the Moroccan story as Phil gathers more cosmogenic dates.

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

New lecturer in ESPM

An exciting day for ESPM yesterday, as Ann proved extremely capable in her debut lecturing performance in Earth Surface Processes, giving a very thorough and informed account of optically-stimulated luminescence (following her training at the Aberystwyth Luminescence Research Laboratory), and balancing out Simon's bias towards cosmogenic isotopes (following his training at PRIME Lab)...

Friday, 5 March 2010

Meteorite impacts and climate change

So while we are still debating a terrestrial vs. extraterrestrial cause for the Younger Dryas cooling after Debs' interesting discussion meeting, at least we can be sure about the K-T boundary event and those sad-looking dinosaurs!

Click here for link to original article in the Guardian.

Click here for Firestone et al., (2007) paper 'Evidence for an extraterrestrial impact 12,900 years ago that contributed to the megafaunal extinctions and the Younger Dryas cooling' and here for the follow up, Paquay et al., (2009) 'Absence of geochemical evidence for an impact event at the Bølling–Allerød/Younger Dryas transition'.

Thursday, 4 March 2010

ESPM Pseudo-weekly GoogleEarth Placemark no. 1 - Nanga Parbat

The first of what will hopefully be a series of GoogleEarth(TM) placemarks to illustrate geomorphologically-interesting places around the world, this week download the kmz file to look at Nanga Parbat in the western syntaxis in the Himalayas. The mighty Indus River flows in the foreground, one of the most rapidly-incising rivers on the planet, while the giant peak of Nanga Parbat stands in the distance, it's height of 8126m attributable in large part to the 3500m headwall above the Diamir Glacier, immediately in front of the peak in this view.

Wednesday, 3 March 2010

Climate feedbacks in the Alps

On a similar theme to Dave Foster's Tetons study (which continues to leave the others trailing in its wake for downloads), our friends Alison Anders, Sara Gran Mitchell and Jon Tomkin have just had their paper on coupling between climate, topography and glacial processes in the European Alps published in Geology.

Thursday, 25 February 2010

Tetons paper published

Dave Foster's paper on the links between tectonics, climate and glacial erosion in the development of the Teton Range, Wyoming, has been published, and currently sits at the top of JGR-Earth Surface's most-downloaded list!

New ESPM blog!

This is a new venture for the Earth Surface Processes at Manchester group, led by Simon Brocklehurst. This blog is intended to help us keep track of what we're doing, and also inform anyone else who's interested!