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Research trio claim landslides key to mountain longevity

Posted on June 28, 2013
Photo of White Mountain peak taken in the Alpine Zone. Credit: Jonathan Lamb/Wikimedia Commons

Photo of White Mountain peak taken in the Alpine Zone. Credit: Jonathan Lamb/Wikimedia Commons

A trio of researchers, two from Aarhus University in Denmark and a third from the University of Melbourne in Australia, claim in a paper published in the journal Nature that mountain longevity is likely due to the type of landslides that occur at their base. They’ve created computer simulations that recreate the conditions that lead to mountain erosion and say landslide types can mean the difference between short- and long-lived mountain ranges.

Scientists have believed for many years that “quiet” mountain ranges—those that are geologically dormant—tend to erode mostly due to rivers that flow around them or down their sides, cutting away at their bedrock. But until now, very little research has been done to find out why some mountain ranges last much longer than others.

To find out, the researchers in this latest effort built computer models that simulate the impact that flowing rivers have on mountain ranges. They found that the type of sediments in the river water had a very large impact on erosion—the grittier the water, the larger the impact. That was not really new, other researchers have suspected as much. What was new was that the computer simulations showed that landslides had a far bigger impact than has been previously suspected. Interestingly, the computer models showed that they can cause mountains to erode faster than normal, or slower, depending on the type and location.

Read more at: Phys.org

 

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