Thermal hillslope

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In the top figure we show modeled shallow ground temperature histories at four depths over an annual cycle, starting January 1, driven by the surface temperature history (depth = 0 cm) shown. The model incorporates a two-month period of snow cover, initially with 0.4 m thickness, and temperature of -12°C at the time of deposition. The zero-curtain is clearly illustrated, during which time the latent heat associated with freezing and thaw of the water stalls propagation of the thermal wave into the ground. In the bottom two panels we show an example result of our hillslope evolution model.

Numerical hillslope model and its thermal state

Computes evolution of topography, soil thickness, and damage in the underlying rock driven by spatial variations in the surface

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Image: In the top figure we show modeled shallow ground temperature histories at four depths over an annual cycle, starting January 1, driven by the surface temperature history (depth = 0 cm) shown. The model incorporates a two-month period of snow cover, initially with 0.4 m thickness, and temperature of -12°C at the time of deposition. The zero-curtain is clearly illustrated, during which time the latent heat associated with freezing and thaw of the water stalls propagation of the thermal wave into the ground. In the bottom two panels we show an example result of our hillslope evolution model.


Simulated critical zone architecture after 1 Ma, with initial conditions of a triangular symmetrical interfluve centered at x=0.  Resulting morphology is asymmetric, showing divide migration toward the warmer south-facing slope.  More efficient transport and damage on colder north-facing slope requires lower slopes to accomplish mobile regolith transport than on warmer less efficient south-facing slopes.  Mobile regolith thickness (pink layer) is nearly uniform, although it varies in time through imposed 100 ka climate. Degree of damage in weathered rock is depicted with color shading.  Damage occurs to greater depths on the north-facing slopes, as depicted by the depth to weathered bedrock with 10% of the damage at the mobile regolith-weathered bedrock interface (bottom plot).

We craft process-specific algorithms that capture climate control of hillslope evolution in order to elucidate the legacy of past climate on present critical zone architecture and topography.  Models of hillslope evolution traditionally comprise rock detachment into the mobile layer, mobile regolith transport, and a channel incision or aggradation boundary condition.  We extend this system into the deep critical zone by considering a weathering damage zone below the mobile regolith in which rock strength is diminished; the degree of damage conditions the rate of mobile regolith production.  We first discuss generic damage profiles in which appropriate length and damage scales govern profile shapes, and examine their dependence upon exhumation rate.  We then introduce climate control through the example of rock damage by frost-generated crack growth. We augment existing frost cracking models by incorporating damage rate limitations for long transport distances for water to the freezing front.  Finally we link the frost cracking damage model, a mobile regolith production rule in which rock entrainment is conditioned by the damage state of the rock, and a frost creep transport model, to examine the evolution of an interfluve under oscillating climate. Aspect-related differences in mean annual surface temperatures result in differences in bedrock damage rate and mobile regolith transport efficiency, which in turn lead to asymmetries in critical zone architecture and hillslope form (divide migration). In a quasi-steady state hillslope, the lowering rate is uniform, and the damage profile is better developed on north-facing slopes where the frost damage process is most intense.  Because the residence times of mobile regolith and weathered bedrock in such landscapes are on the order of 10 to 100 ka, climate cycles over similar timescales result in modulation of transport and damage efficiencies. These lead to temporal variation in mobile regolith thickness, and to corresponding changes in sediment delivery to bounding streams.

 

from Figures 4 and 11 in Anderson, R. S., S. P. Anderson, and G. Tucker, 2013, Rock damage and regolith transport by frost: An example of climate modulation of critical zone geomorphology

Simulated critical zone architecture after 1 Ma, with initial conditions of a triangular symmetrical interfluve centered at x=0.  Resulting morphology is asymmetric, showing divide migration toward the warmer south-facing slope.  More efficient transport and damage on colder north-facing slope requires lower slopes to accomplish mobile regolith transport than on warmer less efficient south-facing slopes.  Mobile regolith thickness (pink layer) is nearly uniform, although it varies in time through imposed 100 ka climate. Degree of damage in weathered rock is depicted with color shading.  Damage occurs to greater depths on the north-facing slopes, as depicted by the depth to weathered bedrock with 10% of the damage at the mobile regolith-weathered bedrock interface (bottom plot).


Publications

2013

Rock damage and regolith transport by frost: an example of climate modulation of the geomorphology of the critical zone. Anderson, R.S., Anderson, S.P., and Tucker, G.E. (2013): EARTH SURFACE PROCESSES AND LANDFORMS Earth Surf. Process. Landforms