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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 Niño winter of 2015-16.

Related Erosion Reading:

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

Did you know that rain, waves, wind, snow, and ice can change the shape of Earth’s surface? They can create valleys, sea stacks, caves, and rock arches. Learn about the natural forces of erosion and how they shape the land. View Details


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

The Earth's surface is always changing. Learn how weathering and erosion constantly reshapes the earth through wind, water, and more! Even people can drastically change the earth's surface. With the help of easy-to-read text and bright, colorful images, this reader simplifies challenging scientific topics while keeping students engaged from cover to cover. This reader also includes instructions for an engaging science activity where students can see what happens when land erodes. A helpful glossary and index are also included for additional support. View Details


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

Describes the process of erosion and how water, ice, wind, and sun wear away at Earth's surface. View Details


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

Earth is changing every day as a result of erosion, and weather plays a major part. View Details


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

Examines the different forces of erosion, such as wind, waves, acid rain, and glaciers and explains how those forces affect the topography of the earth. View Details


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

Dirt, soil, call it what you want—it's everywhere we go. It is the root of our existence, supporting our feet, our farms, our cities. This fascinating yet disquieting book finds, however, that we are running out of dirt, and it's no laughing matter. An engaging natural and cultural history of soil that sweeps from ancient civilizations to modern times, Dirt: The Erosion of Civilizations explores the compelling idea that we are—and have long been—using up Earth's soil. Once bare of protective vegetation and exposed to wind and rain, cultivated soils erode bit by bit, slowly enough... View Details


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

Looks at the processes of weathering, erosion, and deposition, and how they affect plant and animal life. View Details


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


From Erosion:

SAN SEPOLCRO




Jorie Graham
?


. . . . How clean

the mind is,

holy grave. It is this girl

by Piero

della Francesca, unbuttoning

her blue dress,

her mantle of weather,

to go into

labor. Come, we can go in.

It is before

the birth of god. No-one

has risen yet

to the museums, to the assembly

line bodies

and wings to the open air

market. This is

what the living do: go in.

It's a long... View Details


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

Discusses the different causes of erosion and weathering, how these phenomena create problems for people, and their role in the rock cycle. View Details


Examining Erosion (Searchlight Books)
by Joelle Riley (Author)

Introduces the concept of erosion, including why it happens, the difference between gradual and drastic erosion, and why erosion is important to the Earth's rock cycle. View Details

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