Abstract

We present the results of an experimental investigation of the concurrent action of tectonic uplift and climate variation on relief evolution. We designed an experimental apparatus that allows the study of erosion of laboratory-scale topographies that evolve under given uplift and rainfall rates. For constant uplift and rainfall rates, the experimental topography evolves toward a statistical steady state defined by a mean elevation constant with time. Starting from such a steady state and keeping the input uplift rate constant, a subsequent change in the rainfall rate yields a change in the mean elevation of the landscape to a new equilibrium elevation. An increase in precipitation yields a lower mean steady-state elevation, whereas for a decrease in precipitation the surface is uplifted. We define this phenomenon as a climatically induced surface uplift, as opposed to a tectonically induced surface uplift. The climatically and tectonically induced surface uplifts correspond to different dynamics of denudation so that it is theoretically possible to differentiate between the climatic or tectonic causes of surface uplift from records of output sediment fluxes.

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