Rainfall and mountain evolution

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It was long believed that rains have an impact on the evolution of mountains. However, these were no better explanations for this. Well, a new technique has now demonstrated how rainfall has an influence on mountains, even with the mightiest Himalayas.

Byron Adams of the University of Bristol along with Kelin Whipple, Kip Hodges and Arjun Heimsath of School of Earth and Space Exploration of Arizona State University among others evolved the new technique, which was described in Science Advances journal.

The research sheds light not only on the evolution of the mountains but also gives a thought about the natural hazards associated with erosion and even man made disasters.

The research was started several years ago on the topographic, tectonic and erosional evolution of Himalaya. He said that the focus was on understanding about the present and past rainfall sculpt patterns on the topography and its influence on the pattern and rate of tectonic uplift.

The study was held in the Himalayan ranges in Bhutan and Nepal. The region was chosen as it was now one of the most sampled landscapes for erosion rate studies. The researchers used cosmic clocks in sand grains for measuring the speed at which rivers erode the rocks beneath them.

Once a comic particle from outer space drops on Earth, it may hit sand grains on mountain slopes. They are transported toward rivers and some atoms in the grain of sand could convert into some rare element. The researchers said that one can trace how long the sand was present at a particular place by counting the atoms of the new element. And this could also lead us to the time of erosion of the landscape.

The scientists said that once the erosion rate is found, it could be compared with variations in rainfall and river steepness. However, these calculations are considered difficult. But the team of Adams overcame this difficulty. They combined regression techniques with numerical models on erosion of rocks.

The scientists said that they used several models to reproduce the erosion rate pattern. And only one model could give a satisfactory result on how rainfall impacts river incision and erosion rates in mountainous landscapes.

The researchers said the findings could help in evaluating land use management, hazards and infrastructure maintenance in the Himalaya. The variation in erosion rates can lead to landscape instabilities and hazards.


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