The evolution of roughness as a function of surface age was used to quantify weathering rates on rocky desert surfaces. Surface topography on eight late Quaternary alluvial terraces, which record the weathering of Holocene (5 ± 1 ka) boulder-strewn deposits into mature (87 ± 2 ka) desert pavements in the Negev desert of Israel, was measured with ground-based lidar. Roughness on each terrace was characterized with power spectral density (PSD) analysis, and changes in PSD as a function of length scale (λ ∼ 0.04–1.50 m) and surface age were used to estimate diminution/weathering rates of the surface rocks. We found PSD values that systematically increase as a power-law function of λ (roughness exponent of ∼2.0) and decrease as an inverse power-law function of surface age. This PSD evolution indicates a fragmentation rock weathering process driven by salt shattering throughout the 87 k.y. period examined. PSD analysis of the lidar data also revealed weathering rates that increase with rock size and decrease as an inverse power-law function of time, from initial values >20 mm/k.y. to <1 mm/k.y. within ∼60 k.y.

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