Abstract

Tectonic plate motion, and the resulting change in land surface elevation, has been shown to have a fundamental impact on landscape morphology. Changes to uplift rates can drive a response in fluvial channels, which then drives changes to hillslopes. Because hillslopes respond on different time scales than fluvial channels, investigating the geometry of channels and hillslopes in concert provides novel opportunities to examine how uplift rates may have changed through time. Here we perform coupled topographic analysis of channel and hillslope geometry across a series of catchments at the Mendocino triple junction (MTJ) in northern California, USA. These catchments are characterized by an order-of-magnitude difference in uplift rate from north to south. We find that dimensionless hillslope relief closely matches the uplift signal across the area and is positively correlated with channel steepness. Furthermore, the range of uncertainty in hillslope relief is lower than that of channel steepness, suggesting that it may be a more reliable recorder of uplift in the MTJ region. We find that hilltop curvature lags behind relief in its response to uplift, which in turn lags behind channel response. These combined metrics show the northward migration of the MTJ and the corresponding uplift field from topographic data alone.

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