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

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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.