New mechanism of erosion revealed
Local surface uplift can block rivers, particularly in mountainous regions. The impounded water, however, always finds its way downstream, often cutting a narrow gorge into the rocks.
Geländearbeit in der Schlucht des Da’an Chi in Taiwan. Die ein Kilometer lange und bis zu 20 Meter tiefe Schlucht hat sich in weniger als 10 Jahren nach dem Jiji-Erdbeben im Jahr 1999 gebildet. Der Felssporn in der Bildmitte wurde während eines Hochwassers 2012 im Zeitraum von einer Stunde weggespült. (Foto: Kristen Cook, GFZ)
Subsequent erosion of the rocks can lead to a complete eradication of this initial incision, until not a trace is left of the original breakthrough.
In extreme cases the whole gorge disappears, leaving behind a broad valley with a flat floodplain. Previously, the assumption was that this transition from a narrow gorge to a wide valley was driven by gorge widening and the erosion of the walls of the gorges.
A team of scientists from the GFZ German Research Centre for Geosciences in Potsdam has now revealed a new mechanism that drives this process of fluvial erosion (Nature Geoscience, 17.08.2014). The geoscientists analyzed the development of a gorge on the Da'an Chi river in Taiwan over a period of almost ten years.
There, uplift that was caused by the Jiji earthquake of 1999 (magnitude 7.6), and that runs transverse to the river, had formed a blockage. Earthquakes of that size occur there every 300 to 500 years. "Before the quake there was no sign of a gorge at all in this riverbed, which is one and a half kilometers wide", explains Kristen Cook of the GFZ.
"We have here the world's first real-time observation of the evolution of gorge width by fluvial erosion over the course of several years." Currently the gorge is roughly a kilometer long, 25 meters wide and up to 17 meters deep. Initially, the gorge walls were eroded at a rate of five meters per year, and today are still retreating one and a half meters per year.
The scientists identified a hitherto unknown mechanism by which the gorge is destroyed. "Downstream sweep erosion" they termed this process. "A wide braided channel upstream of the gorge is necessary," explains co-author Jens Turowski (GFZ).
"The course of this channel changes regularly and it has to flow in sharp bends to run into the gorge. In these bends, the bed-load material that is transported by the river hits the upper edge of the gorge causing rapid erosion."
This mechanism gradually washes away all of the bedrock surrounding the gorge and, therefore, is the cause for the planation of the riverbed over the complete width of the valley. Assuming the current erosion rate of 17 meters per year, it will take here at the Da'an Chi River only 50 to 100 years until again a flat beveled channel again fills the valley.
In contrast, lateral erosion in the gorge would be too slow to eradicate the gorge in the time of one earthquake cycle. The newly discovered downstream sweep erosion is far more effective.
Kristen L. Cook, Jens M. Turowski and Niels Hovius: "River gorge eradication by downstream sweep erosion", Nature Geoscience, Advance Online Publication, 17.08.2014, DOI: 10.1038/ngeo2224
F. Ossing | Eurek Alert!
Carbon dioxide fertilization greening Earth, study finds
27.04.2016 | NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center
Researchers discover fate of melting glacial ice in Greenland
26.04.2016 | University of Georgia
Neutron scattering and computational modeling have revealed unique and unexpected behavior of water molecules under extreme confinement that is unmatched by any known gas, liquid or solid states.
In a paper published in Physical Review Letters, researchers at the Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory describe a new tunneling state of...
Honeycomb structures as the basic building block for industrial applications presented using holo pyramid
Researchers of the Alfred Wegener Institute (AWI) will introduce their latest developments in the field of bionic lightweight design at Hannover Messe from 25...
Polymer solar cells can be even cheaper and more reliable thanks to a breakthrough by scientists at Linköping University and the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS). This work is about avoiding costly and unstable fullerenes.
Polymer solar cells can be even cheaper and more reliable thanks to a breakthrough by scientists at Linköping University and the Chinese Academy of Sciences...
As one of the leading R&D partners in the development of surface technologies and organic electronics, the Fraunhofer Institute for Organic Electronics, Electron Beam and Plasma Technology FEP will be exhibiting its recent achievements in vacuum coating of ultra-thin glass at SVC TechCon 2016 (Booth 846), taking place in Indianapolis / USA from May 9 – 13.
Fraunhofer FEP is an experienced partner for technological developments, known for testing the limits of new materials and for optimization of those materials...
Liquid water is a very good heat storage medium – anyone with a Thermos bottle knows that. However, as soon as water boils or freezes, its storage capacity drops precipitously. Physicists at the University of Bonn have now observed very similar behavior in a gas of light particles. Their findings can be used, for example, to produce ultra-precise thermometers. The work appears in the prestigious technical journal "Nature Communications".
Water vapor becomes liquid under 100 degrees Celsius – it condenses. Physicists speak of a phase transition. In this process, certain thermodynamic...
27.04.2016 | Event News
15.04.2016 | Event News
12.04.2016 | Event News
28.04.2016 | Physics and Astronomy
28.04.2016 | Materials Sciences
28.04.2016 | Life Sciences