Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Geologists Discover Water Cuts Through Rock at Surprising Speed

26.07.2004


In the first study to directly measure when and how quickly rivers outside of growing mountain ranges cut through rock, geologists at the University of Vermont have determined that it was about 35,000 years ago that the Susquehanna and Potomac rivers, respectively, began carving out the Great Falls of the Potomac and Holtwood Gorge. Great Falls, located about 15 miles outside of Washington, D.C., hosts hundreds of thousands of visitors each year; Holtwood Gorge lies along the Susquehanna River, near Harrisburg, Penn.



As reported in the July 23 issue of the journal Science, the geologists analyzed rock samples collected from the gorges for 10-beryllium, a very rare isotope that is produced when cosmic rays collide with rocks and sediments at the earth’s surface. These analyses helped them gauge when the rivers abandoned their ancient beds and, consequently, exposed bare rock surfaces, known as terraces, where people climb and hike today. Knowing the age of each river terrace and its height above its current river bed, they were able to calculate how quickly the rivers cut through bedrock. Their conclusions: Incision of the 10- to 20-meter-deep gorges happened at a rate far more rapid than previously thought, and was prompted more by regional climate changes tied to the last ice age than by water pouring from melting glacial ice.

“The period of incision we measured correlates with a period of cold and stormy climate during the last glacial period that is also recorded in ice cores drilled into the Greenland ice sheet,” said Luke Reusser, a graduate student of geology at the University of Vermont and lead author of “Rapid Late Pleistocene Incision of Atlantic Passive-Margin River Gorges.”


“Because bedrock is hard and resistant to erosion, most incision within rivers running over rock occurs during extremely large flood events,” Reusser explained. “Changing climate, capable of increasing the number and severity of floods, appears to have sped up the rate of incision along both rivers about 35,000 years ago.”

The project is unique because it used many samples closely spaced to understand the spatial patterning of how and when the rivers cut into rock, according to Paul Bierman, professor of geology at the University of Vermont and co-author of the Science paper. “Without such detail, we never would have been able to detect the link with climate, nor would we know that Great Falls, probably the most visited stretch of the Potomac, has existed there for nearly 30,000 years,” Bierman said. His group continues to take samples from the area and is completing a second paper on the Susquehanna sites.

"Scientifically, these are the first data that tell us how quickly rivers of the eastern seaboard cut into rock,” said Enriqueta Barrera, director of the Geology and Paleontology Program, Division of Earth Sciences at the National Science Foundation. The NSF and U.S. Geological Survey have underwritten the project for five years. “The Potomac and Susquehanna have shown they can cut nearly a meter of solid rock every thousand years, she said. “Pretty impressive for old rivers."

“There are undated gorges all over the world,” Bierman said. “We want to work next on other East Coast rivers and streams to see how similar their histories are to the two major rivers sampled so far, the Susquehanna and Potomac.”

| newswise
Further information:
http://www.uvm.edu

More articles from Earth Sciences:

nachricht 'Quartz' crystals at the Earth's core power its magnetic field
23.02.2017 | Tokyo Institute of Technology

nachricht NASA spies Tropical Cyclone 08P's formation
23.02.2017 | NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Breakthrough with a chain of gold atoms

In the field of nanoscience, an international team of physicists with participants from Konstanz has achieved a breakthrough in understanding heat transport

In the field of nanoscience, an international team of physicists with participants from Konstanz has achieved a breakthrough in understanding heat transport

Im Focus: DNA repair: a new letter in the cell alphabet

Results reveal how discoveries may be hidden in scientific “blind spots”

Cells need to repair damaged DNA in our genes to prevent the development of cancer and other diseases. Our cells therefore activate and send “repair-proteins”...

Im Focus: Dresdner scientists print tomorrow’s world

The Fraunhofer IWS Dresden and Technische Universität Dresden inaugurated their jointly operated Center for Additive Manufacturing Dresden (AMCD) with a festive ceremony on February 7, 2017. Scientists from various disciplines perform research on materials, additive manufacturing processes and innovative technologies, which build up components in a layer by layer process. This technology opens up new horizons for component design and combinations of functions. For example during fabrication, electrical conductors and sensors are already able to be additively manufactured into components. They provide information about stress conditions of a product during operation.

The 3D-printing technology, or additive manufacturing as it is often called, has long made the step out of scientific research laboratories into industrial...

Im Focus: Mimicking nature's cellular architectures via 3-D printing

Research offers new level of control over the structure of 3-D printed materials

Nature does amazing things with limited design materials. Grass, for example, can support its own weight, resist strong wind loads, and recover after being...

Im Focus: Three Magnetic States for Each Hole

Nanometer-scale magnetic perforated grids could create new possibilities for computing. Together with international colleagues, scientists from the Helmholtz Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR) have shown how a cobalt grid can be reliably programmed at room temperature. In addition they discovered that for every hole ("antidot") three magnetic states can be configured. The results have been published in the journal "Scientific Reports".

Physicist Dr. Rantej Bali from the HZDR, together with scientists from Singapore and Australia, designed a special grid structure in a thin layer of cobalt in...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Booth and panel discussion – The Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings at the AAAS 2017 Annual Meeting

13.02.2017 | Event News

Complex Loading versus Hidden Reserves

10.02.2017 | Event News

International Conference on Crystal Growth in Freiburg

09.02.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

From rocks in Colorado, evidence of a 'chaotic solar system'

23.02.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

'Quartz' crystals at the Earth's core power its magnetic field

23.02.2017 | Earth Sciences

Antimicrobial substances identified in Komodo dragon blood

23.02.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>