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August 2011 GSA Today science: Understanding Earth's eroding surface with 10Be

August 02, 2011

Boulder, Colorado, USA - The August GSA TODAY science article is now online at http://www.geosociety.org/gsatoday/archive/21/8/.

The modification of Earth's surface by erosion is one of the most important geological processes in terms of its impact on society, as well as its influence on the geological record, but geologists have been lacking a well-determined compilation of pre-human rates of erosion. In a groundbreaking compilation of 1528 calculations of surface erosion rates from 80 study areas from all over the world, authors Eric Portenga and Paul Bierman of the University of Vermont provide a valuable look at how rates of erosion vary in differing climates and tectonic settings in the recent geological past.

The erosion rates in their compilation are determined by measuring the abundance of radioactive isotopes produced in rocks exposed to cosmic radiation at Earth's surface. Their compilation has found that bare rock outcrops had significantly lower rates of erosion than surfaces covered with even thin layers of soil, pointing out the global importance of soil formation as a geomorphic process. They also found several factors that are most important to erosion rates; not surprisingly, the highest rates of erosion in the recent geologic past occur in drainage basins and in areas with the steepest slopes. The analysis of their compilation has revealed that variations in global and regional erosion rates are best explained by an interaction of several processes including surface slope and elevation, tectonic activity, and climatic setting. One of the more interesting applications of this global analysis of erosion rates will be to better understand how changes in present climate and land use will likely influence long-term rates of erosion.
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Eric W. Portenga, Dept. of Geology, University of Vermont, 180 Colchester Ave., Burlington, Vermont 05405, USA, eporteng@uvm.edu; and Paul R. Bierman, Dept. of Geology and Rubenstein School of the Environment and Natural Resources, University of Vermont, 180 Colchester Ave., Burlington, Vermont 05405, USA, pbierman@uvm.edu

GSA Today is The Geological Society of America's science and news magazine for members and other earth scientists. Refereed lead science articles present exciting new research or synthesize important issues in a format understandable to all in the earth science community. Please discuss the article with the authors before publishing stories on their work, and please make reference to GSA TODAY in articles published. All GSA Today articles are open access at www.geosociety.org/pubs/.

Geological Society of America

Related Erosion Articles:

Landscape-scale erosion instabilities in the northern Gabilan Mesa, California
If you ever fly from L.A. to San Francisco, California, you may notice the Gabilan Mesa off to the east as you begin your descent into San Francisco International Airport.
Pasture management and riparian buffers reduce erosion
A 12-year study was completed in Arkansas watersheds.
More than 100 years of flooding and erosion in 1 event
Sara Rathburn of Colorado State University and colleagues have developed an integrated sediment, wood, and organic carbon budget for North St.
Studying midwest soil production, erosion and human impacts
Larsen and colleagues will study Midwest soils where remnants of the native prairie still exist, specifically in Iowa, Illinois, Minnesota, Nebraska and South Dakota.
Research assesses impact of soil erosion on land and communities in East Africa
The impact of soil erosion on both the environmental and social well-being of communities in East Africa is to be explored in new research led by the University of Plymouth.
New study shows ocean acidification accelerates erosion of coral reefs
Scientists studying naturally high carbon dioxide coral reefs in Papua New Guinea found that erosion of essential habitat is accelerated in these highly acidified waters, even as coral growth continues to slow.
Deepwater Horizon oil spill caused widespread marsh erosion
Marsh erosion caused by the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill was widespread, a new study of 103 Gulf Coast sites reveals.
New insights on the relationship between erosion and tectonics in the Himalayas
Can processes unfolding at the Earth's surface be strong enough to influence tectonics?
Huge time-lag between erosion and mountain building
An unprecedented record of erosion rates dating back millions of years shows a significant time-lag between tectonic uplift and maximum erosion rates in the Argentine Precordillera mountains.
Beach replenishment helps protect against storm erosion during El Niño
Sand added to three San Diego County beaches in 2012 has partially remained, surviving the large waves of the El NiƱo winter of 2015-16.

Related Erosion Reading:

Erosion: Changing Earth's Surface (Amazing Science)
by Robin Koontz (Author), Matthew Harrad (Illustrator)

Cracking Up: A Story About Erosion (Science Works)
by Jacqui Bailey (Author), Matthew Lilly (Illustrator)

Weathering and Erosion (Science Readers: Content and Literacy)
by Torrey Maloof (Author)

Erosion (Reading Essentials in Science)
by Virginia Castleman (Author)

Erosion and Weathering (Rocks: The Hard Facts)
by Willa Dee (Author)

Soil Erosion and How to Prevent It (Everybody Digs Soil)
by Natalie Hyde (Author)

Erosion (Let's Explore Science)
by Shirley Duke (Author)

Erosion: How Land Forms, How It Changes (Exploring Science: Earth Science)
by Darlene R. Stille (Author), Farhana Hossain (Illustrator)

Dirt: The Erosion of Civilizations
by David R. Montgomery (Author)

Erosion (Princeton Series of Contemporary Poets)
by Jorie Graham (Author)

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