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Book Chapter

Critical zone evolution: Climate and exhumation in the Colorado Front Range

By
Suzanne P. Anderson
Suzanne P. Anderson
Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research (INSTAAR) and Department of Geography, University of Colorado, Boulder, Colorado 80309, USA
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Robert S. Anderson
Robert S. Anderson
Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research (INSTAAR) and Department of Geological Sciences, University of Colorado, Boulder, Colorado 80309, USA
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Gregory E. Tucker
Gregory E. Tucker
Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research (INSTAAR) and Department of Geological Sciences, University of Colorado, Boulder, Colorado 80309, USA
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David P. Dethier
David P. Dethier
Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research (INSTAAR) and Department of Geological Sciences, University of Colorado, Boulder, Colorado 80309, USA
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Published:
January 01, 2013

Abstract

The architecture of the critical zone—the distribution of mobile regolith, the thickness of weathered rock, and their characteristics, as well as the topography of the land surface—is shaped by erosion and weathering processes that depend upon both lithology and climate. In this trip we explore the Boulder Creek watershed, a landscape that juxtaposes uplifted Precambrian crystalline rocks of Colorado’s Front Range against Mesozoic marine sedimentary rocks underpinning the western edge of the High Plains. The landscape is strongly shaped by Quaternary climate cycles operating on this template inherited from the Laramide orogeny. Stop 1 will provide an overview of the abrupt topographic step at the Front Range–High Plains join, where we will discuss fluvial strath terraces on the Plains. At Stop 2 in Betasso Preserve, we will discuss the impact of the canyon cutting set off by late Cenozoic exhumation of the High Plains on the hillslopes and groundwater systems lining the master stream. At Stop 3, we will hike 2 miles down Gordon Gulch, a focus site in the Boulder Creek Critical Zone Observatory. At stops on the hike, we will discuss exhumation rates, climate-modulated weathering, hillslope hydrology and hillslope sediment transport, and the influence of slope aspect on these processes. Our goal is to focus on the history of climate-driven erosion and weathering processes, and how to incorporate these processes into quantitative models of landscape evolution.

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Contents

GSA Field Guide

Classic Concepts and New Directions: Exploring 125 Years of GSA Discoveries in the Rocky Mountain Region

Lon D. Abbott
Lon D. Abbott
Department of Geological Sciences University of Colorado Boulder, Colorado 80305 USA
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Gregory S. Hancock
Gregory S. Hancock
Department of Geology College of William and Mary Williamsburg, Virginia 23187 USA
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Geological Society of America
Volume
33
ISBN electronic:
9780813756332
Publication date:
January 01, 2013

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