Matching Items (38)

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Dating and Characterizing the Piedmont Fault in the North Virgin Mountains of Arizona

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Faults found in the arid to semi-arid Basin and Range Physiographic province of the southwestern US are given broad age definitions in terms of which features appear to be the

Faults found in the arid to semi-arid Basin and Range Physiographic province of the southwestern US are given broad age definitions in terms of which features appear to be the oldest. Particularly in the northwestern corner of Arizona, detailed geomorphic studies on the tectonic history and timing of faulting are not widespread. At the base of the Virgin Mountains in northwestern Arizona is a fault scarp along the Piedmont Fault line. This normal fault crosses a series of alluvial fans that are filled with sediments of ambiguous ages. Previous studies that were done in this region find a broad, Miocene age for the exhumation and uplift of these surfaces, with some indications of Laramide faulting history. However, specific fault characteristics and a time constraint of the tectonic history of the Piedmont Fault scarp has yet to be established. Here, we aim to determine the age, fault-slip rate, seismic history, and potential hazard of the fault scarp near Scenic and Littlefield, Arizona through structure from motion (SfM) modeling, which is a form of photogrammetry using a drone. In addition, we distinguish the climatic and tectonic influences on the geomorphology observed along the scarp through analysis along the fault line. With data collected from a ~500 m section of the fault, we present results from a digital elevation model (DEM) and orthophotos derived through the SfM modelling. Based on field observations and morphologic dating, we determine that the Piedmont Fault experiences an approximately continuous fault-slip and an earthquake recurrence interval in the range of 7,000 years. The approximate age of the scarp is 16.0 ka ± 5 kyr. Therefore, we conclude that the earthquake hazard posed to nearby cities is minimal but not nonexistent. Future work includes further analysis of fault profiles due to uncertainty in the present one and Terrestrial Cosmogenic Nuclide (TCN) dating of samples taken from the tops of boulders in a residual debris flow sitting on faulted and unfaulted alluvia. Determining the ages for these boulder surfaces can hopefully further inform our knowledge of the tectonic activity present in the North Virgin Mountains.

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  • 2020-12

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Quantifying the temporal and spatial response of channel steepness to changes in rift basin architecture

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Quantifying the temporal and spatial evolution of active continental rifts contributes to our understanding of fault system evolution and seismic hazards. Rift systems also preserve robust paleoenvironmental records and are

Quantifying the temporal and spatial evolution of active continental rifts contributes to our understanding of fault system evolution and seismic hazards. Rift systems also preserve robust paleoenvironmental records and are often characterized by strong climatic gradients that can be used to examine feedbacks between climate and tectonics. In this thesis, I quantify the spatial and temporal history of rift flank uplift by analyzing bedrock river channel profiles along footwall escarpments in the Malawi segment of the East Africa Rift. This work addresses questions that are widely applicable to continental rift settings: (1) Is rift-flank uplift sufficiently described by theoretical elliptical along-fault displacement patterns? (2) Do orographic climate patterns induced by rift topography affect rift-flank uplift or morphology? (3) How do uplift patterns along rift flanks vary over geologic timescales? In Malawi, 100-km-long border faults of alternating polarity bound half-graben sedimentary basins containing up to 4km of basin fill and water depths up to 700m. Orographically driven precipitation produces climatic gradients along footwall escarpments resulting in mean annual rainfall that varies spatially from 800 to 2500 mm. Temporal oscillations in climate have also resulted in lake lowstands 500 m below the modern shoreline. I examine bedrock river profiles crossing the Livingstone and Usisya Border Faults in northern Malawi using the channel steepness index (Ksn) to assess importance of these conditions on rift flank evolution. River profiles reveal a consistent transient pattern that likely preserves a temporal record of slip and erosion along the entire border fault system. These profiles and other topographic observations, along with known modern and paleoenvironmental conditions, can be used to interpret a complete history of rift flank development from the onset of rifting to present. I interpret the morphology of the upland landscape to preserve the onset of extensional faulting across a relict erosion surface. The linkages of individual faults and acceleration of slip during the development of a continuous border fault is suggested by an analysis of knickpoint elevations and Ksn. Finally, these results suggest that the modern observed climate gradient only began to significantly affect denudation patterns once a high relief rift flank was established.

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  • 2014

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Tectonic and climatic influence on the evolution of the Bhutan Himalaya

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The Himalaya are the archetypal example of a continental collision belt, formed by the ongoing convergence between India and Eurasia. Boasting some of the highest and most rugged topography on

The Himalaya are the archetypal example of a continental collision belt, formed by the ongoing convergence between India and Eurasia. Boasting some of the highest and most rugged topography on Earth, there is currently no consensus on how climatic and tectonic processes have combined to shape its topographic evolution. The Kingdom of Bhutan in the eastern Himalaya provides a unique opportunity to study the interconnections among Himalayan climate, topography, erosion, and tectonics. The eastern Himalaya are remarkably different from the rest of the orogen, most strikingly due to the presence of the Shillong Plateau to the south of the Himalayan rangefront. The tectonic structures associated with the Shillong Plateau have accommodated convergence between India and Eurasia and created a natural experiment to test the possible response of the Himalaya to a reduction in local shortening. In addition, the position and orientation of the plateau topography has intercepted moisture once bound for the Himalaya and created a natural experiment to test the possible response of the range to a reduction in rainfall. I focused this study around the gently rolling landscapes found in the middle of the otherwise extremely rugged Bhutan Himalaya, with the understanding that these landscapes likely record a recent change in the evolution of the range. I have used geochronometric, thermochronometric, and cosmogenic nuclide techniques, combined with thermal-kinematic and landscape evolution models to draw three primary conclusions. 1) The cooling histories of bedrock samples from the hinterland of the Bhutan Himalaya show a protracted decrease in erosion rate from the Middle Miocene toward the Pliocene. I have attributed this change to a reduction in shortening rates across the Himalayan mountain belt, due to increased accommodation of shortening across the Shillong Plateau. 2) The low-relief landscapes of Bhutan were likely created by backtilting and surface uplift produced by an active, blind, hinterland duplex. These landscapes were formed during surface uplift, which initiated ca. 1.5 Ma and has totaled 800 m. 3) Millennial-scale erosion rates are coupled with modern rainfall rates. Non-linear relationships between topographic metrics and erosion rates, suggest a fundamental difference in the mode of river incision within the drier interior of Bhutan and the wetter foothills.

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Date Created
  • 2014

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Hydroclimatic controls on erosional efficiency in mountain landscapes

Description

Climate and its influence on hydrology and weathering is a key driver of surface processes on Earth. Despite its clear importance to hazard generation, fluvial sediment transport and erosion, the

Climate and its influence on hydrology and weathering is a key driver of surface processes on Earth. Despite its clear importance to hazard generation, fluvial sediment transport and erosion, the drawdown of atmospheric CO2 via the rock cycle, and feedbacks between climate and tectonics, quantifying climatic controls on long-term erosion rates has proven to be one of the grand problems in geomorphology. In fact, recent attempts addressing this problem using cosmogenic radionuclide (CRN) derived erosion rates suggest very weak climatic controls on millennial-scale erosion rates contrary to expectations. In this work, two challenges are addressed that may be impeding progress on this problem.

The first challenge is choosing appropriate climate metrics that are closely tied to erosional processes. For example, in fluvial landscapes, most runoff events do little to no geomorphic work due to erosion thresholds, and event-scale variability dictates how frequently these thresholds are exceeded. By analyzing dense hydroclimatic datasets in the contiguous U.S. and Puerto Rico, we show that event-scale runoff variability is only loosely related to event-scale rainfall variability. Instead, aridity and fractional evapotranspiration (ET) losses are much better predictors of runoff variability. Importantly, simple hillslope-scale soil water balance models capture major aspects of the observed relation between runoff variability and fractional ET losses. Together, these results point to the role of vegetation water use as a potential key to relating mean hydrologic partitioning with runoff variability.

The second challenge is that long-term erosion rates are expected to balance rock uplift rates as landscapes approach topographic steady state, regardless of hydroclimatic setting. This is illustrated with new data along the Main Gulf Escarpment, Baja, Mexico. Under this conceptual framework, climate is not expected to set the erosion rate, but rather the erosional efficiency of the system, or the steady-state relief required for erosion to keep up with tectonically driven uplift rates. To assess differences in erosional efficiency across landscapes experiencing different climatic regimes, we contrast new CRN data from tectonically active landscapes in Baja, Mexico and southern California (arid) with northern Honduras (very humid) alongside other published global data from similar hydroclimatic settings. This analysis shows how climate does, in fact, set functional relationships between topographic metrics like channel steepness and long-term erosion rates. However, we also show that relatively small differences in rock erodibility and incision thresholds can easily overprint hydroclimatic controls on erosional efficiency motivating the need for more field based constraints on these important variables.

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  • 2014

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Wind-driven modification of small bedforms in Gusev Crater, Mars

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ABSTRACT

The Spirit landing site in Gusev Crater has been imaged by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera more than thirty times since 2006. The

ABSTRACT

The Spirit landing site in Gusev Crater has been imaged by the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera more than thirty times since 2006. The breadth of this image set allowed a study of changes to surface features, covering four Mars years.

Small fields of bedforms comprised of dark material, and dark dust devil tracks are among the features revealed in the images. The bedforms are constrained within craters on the plains, and unconstrained in depressions less than 200m wide within the topography of the Columbia Hills, a ~120m-high structure in center of Gusev. Dust devil tracks appear in many images of the bedforms.

Within the Columbia Hills, three bedform fields approximately 180m2 and composed of fine dark basaltic sand were studied, using five HiRISE images taken from 2006 to 2014. Both bedform crests and the dust devil tracks superimposed on them were evaluated for change to azimuth and length, and for correlation between the features. The linear to slightly sinuous transverse crests ranging from less than 1m to 113m in length and two to three meters in wavelength, are primary bedforms. During the study they shifted as much as 33 degrees in azimuth, and individual crests moved on the surface as much as 0.75m. The greatest changes corresponded to a global dust storm in 2007. Average crest movement was documented at the rate of 0.25m per year. Rather than moving progressively, the crests eventually returned to near their original orientation after the storm. The dust devil tracks, reflecting a more complex wind regime, including vortex development during diurnal heating, maintained predominantly NW-SE orientations but also reflected the effects of the storm.

The observed modifications were neither progressive, nor strictly seasonal. The apparent stability of the bedform geometry over four seasons supports the predictions of the Mars Regional Atmospheric Modeling System (MRAMS): low speed (1-7.5 ms-1), daily alternating winds of relatively equal force. Crest profiles were found to be nearly symmetrical, without slipfaces to indicate a preferential wind direction; this finding also is supported by the MRAMS model.

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Date Created
  • 2016

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Field and Flume Investigations of Bedload Transport and Bedforms in Sand-Bedded Rivers

Description

Worldwide, rivers and streams make up dense, interconnected conveyor belts of sediment– removing carved away earth and transporting it downstream. The propensity of alluvial river beds to self-organize into complex

Worldwide, rivers and streams make up dense, interconnected conveyor belts of sediment– removing carved away earth and transporting it downstream. The propensity of alluvial river beds to self-organize into complex trains of bedforms (i.e. ripples and dunes) suggests that the associated fluid and sediment dynamics over individual bedforms are an integral component of bedload transport (sediment rolled or bounced along the river bed) over larger scales. Generally speaking, asymmetric bedforms (such as alluvial ripples and dunes) migrate downstream via erosion on the stoss side of the bedform and deposition on the lee side of the bedform. Thus, the migration of bedforms is intrinsically linked to the downstream flux of bedload sediment. Accurate quantification of bedload transport is important for the management of waters, civil engineering, and river restoration efforts. Although important, accurate qualification of bedload transport is a difficult task that continues t elude researchers. This dissertation focuses on improving our understanding and quantification of bedload transport on the two spatial scales: the bedform scale and the reach (~100m) scale.

Despite a breadth of work investigating the spatiotemporal details of fluid dynamics over bedforms and bedload transport dynamics over flat beds, there remains a relative dearth of investigations into the spatiotemporal details of bedload transport over bedforms and on a sub-bedform scale. To address this, we conducted two sets of flume experiments focused on the two fundamental regions of flow associated with bedforms: flow separation/reattachment on the lee side of the bedform (Chapter 1; backward facing-step) and flow reacceleration up the stoss side of the next bedform (Chapter 2; two-dimensional bedform). Using Laser and Acoustic Doppler Velocimetry to record fluid turbulent events and manual particle tracking of high-speed imagery to record bedload transport dynamics, we identified the existence and importance of “permeable splat events” in the region proximal to flow reattachment.

These coupled turbulent and sediment transport events are integral to the spatiotemporal pattern of bedload transport over bedforms. Splat events are localized, high magnitude, intermittent flow features in which fluid impinges on the bed, infiltrates the top portion of bed, and then exfiltrates in all directions surrounding the point of impingement. This initiates bedload transport in a radial pattern. These turbulent structures are primarily associated with quadrant 1 and 4 turbulent structures (i.e. instantaneous fluid fluctuations in the streamwise direction that bring fluid down into the bed in the case of quadrant 1 events, or up away from the bed in the case of quadrant 4 events) and generate a distinct pattern of bedload transport compared to transport dynamics distal to flow reattachment. Distal to flow reattachment, bedload transport is characterized by relatively unidirectional transport. The dynamics of splat events, specifically their potential for inducing significant magnitudes of cross-stream transport, has important implications for the evolution of bedforms from simple, two dimensional features to complex, three-dimensional features.

New advancements in sonar technology have enabled more detailed quantification of bedload transport on the reach scale, a process paramount to the effective management of rivers with sand or gravel-dominated bed material. However, a practical and scalable field methodology for reliably estimating bedload remains elusive. A popular approach involves calculating transport from the geometry and celerity of migrating bedforms, extracted from time-series of bed elevation profiles (BEPs) acquired using echosounders. Using two sets of repeat multibeam sonar surveys from the Diamond Creek USGS gage station in Grand Canyon National Park with large spatio-temporal resolution and coverage, we compute bedload using three field techniques for acquiring BEPs: repeat multi-, single-, and multiple single-beam sonar. Significant differences in flux arise between repeat multibeam and single beam sonar. Mulitbeam and multiple single beam sonar systems can potentially yield comparable results, but the latter relies on knowledge of bedform geometries and flow that collectively inform optimal beam spacing and sampling rate. These results serve to guide design of optimal sampling, and for comparing transport estimates from different sonar configurations.

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Date Created
  • 2018

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Heat and mass transfer on planetary surfaces

Description

Planetary surface studies across a range of spatial scales are key to interpreting modern and ancient operative processes and to meeting strategic mission objectives for robotic planetary science exploration. At

Planetary surface studies across a range of spatial scales are key to interpreting modern and ancient operative processes and to meeting strategic mission objectives for robotic planetary science exploration. At the meter-scale and below, planetary regolith conducts heat at a rate that depends on the physical properties of the regolith particles, such as particle size, sorting, composition, and shape. Radiometric temperature measurements thus provide the means to determine regolith properties and rock abundance from afar. However, heat conduction through a matrix of irregular particles is a complicated physical system that is strongly influenced by temperature and atmospheric gas pressure. A series of new regolith thermal conductivity experiments were conducted under realistic planetary surface pressure and temperature conditions. A new model is put forth to describe the radiative, solid, and gaseous conduction terms of regolith on Earth, Mars, and airless bodies. These results will be used to infer particle size distribution from temperature measurements of the primitive asteroid Bennu to aid in OSIRIS-REx sampling site selection. Moving up in scale, fluvial processes are extremely influential in shaping Earth's surface and likely played an influential role on ancient Mars. Amphitheater-headed canyons are found on both planets, but conditions necessary for their development have been debated for many years. A spatial analysis of canyon form distribution with respect to local stratigraphy at the Escalante River and on Tarantula Mesa, Utah, indicates that canyon distribution is most closely related to variations in local rock strata, rather than groundwater spring intensity or climate variations. This implies that amphitheater-headed canyons are not simple markers of groundwater seepage erosion or megaflooding. Finally, at the largest scale, volcanism has significantly altered the surface characteristics of Earth and Mars. A field campaign was conducted in Hawaii to investigate the December 1974 Kilauea lava flow, where it was found that lava coils formed in an analogous manner to those found in Athabasca Valles, Mars. The location and size of the coils may be used as indicators of local effusion rate, viscosity, and crustal thickness.

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Date Created
  • 2018

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Combining tectonic geomorphology and paleoseismology for understanding of earthquake recurrence

Description

There is a need to understand spatio-temporal variation of slip in active fault zones, both for the advancement of physics-based earthquake simulation and for improved probabilistic seismic hazard assessments. One

There is a need to understand spatio-temporal variation of slip in active fault zones, both for the advancement of physics-based earthquake simulation and for improved probabilistic seismic hazard assessments. One challenge in the study of seismic hazards is producing a viable earthquake rupture forecast—a model that specifies the expected frequency and magnitude of events for a fault system. Time-independent earthquake forecasts can produce a mismatch among observed earthquake recurrence intervals, slip-per-event estimates, and implied slip rates. In this thesis, I developed an approach to refine several key geologic inputs to rupture forecasts by focusing on the San Andreas Fault in the Carrizo Plain, California. I use topographic forms, sub-surface excavations, and high-precision geochronology to understand the generation and preservation of slip markers at several spatial and temporal scales—from offset in a single earthquake to offset accumulated over thousands of years. This work results in a comparison of slip rate estimates in the Carrizo Plain for the last ~15 kyr that reduces ambiguity and enriches rupture forecast parameters. I analyzed a catalog of slip measurements and surveyed earth scientists with varying amounts of experience to validate high-resolution topography as a supplement to field-based active fault studies. The investigation revealed that (for both field and remote studies) epistemic uncertainties associated with measuring offset landforms can present greater limitations than the aleatoric limitations of the measurement process itself. I pursued the age and origin of small-scale fault-offset fluvial features at Van Matre Ranch, where topographic depressions were previously interpreted as single-event tectonic offsets. I provide new estimates of slip in the most recent earthquake, refine the centennial-scale fault slip rate, and formulate a new understanding of the formation of small-scale fault-offset fluvial channels from small catchments (<7,000 m2). At Phelan Creeks, I confirm the constancy of strain release for the ~15,000 years in the Carrizo Plain by reconstructing a multistage offset landform evolutionary history. I update and explicate a simplified model to interpret the geomorphic response of stream channels to strike-slip faulting. Lastly, I re-excavate and re-interpret paleoseismic catalogs along an intra-continental strike-slip fault (Altyn Tagh, China) to assess consistency of earthquake recurrence.

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Date Created
  • 2016

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Surface response to slip along a propagating blind thrust fault, Wheeler Ridge, California

Description

Understanding topography developed above an active blind thrust fault is critical to quantifying the along-strike variability of the timing, magnitude, and rate of fault slip at depth. Hillslope and fluvial

Understanding topography developed above an active blind thrust fault is critical to quantifying the along-strike variability of the timing, magnitude, and rate of fault slip at depth. Hillslope and fluvial processes respond to growing topography such that the existing landscape is an indicator of constructional and destruction processes. Light detection and ranging (lidar) data provide a necessary tool for fine-scale quantitative understanding of the topography to understand the tectonic evolution of blind thrust faulting. In this thesis, lidar topographic data collected in 2014 are applied to a well-studied laterally propagating anticline developed above a blind thrust fault in order to assess the geomorphic response of along-strike variations in tectonic deformation. Wheeler Ridge is an asymmetric east-propagating anticline (10 km axis, 330 m topographic relief) above a north-vergent blind thrust fault at the northern front of the Transverse Ranges, Southern San Joaquin Valley, California. Wheeler Ridge is part of a thrust system initiating in the late Miocene and is known to have significant historic earthquakes occur (e.g., 1952 Mw 7.3 Kern County earthquake). Analysis of the lidar data enables quantitative assessment of four key geomorphic relationships that may be indicative of relative variation in local rock uplift. First, I observe remnant landforms in the youngest, easternmost section of Wheeler Ridge that indicate the erosional history of older deposits to the west. Second, I examine the central portion of Wheeler Ridge where drainages and hillslopes are closely tied to uplift rates. Third, I observe the major wind gap within which a series of knickpoints are aligned at a similar elevation and tie into the local depositional and uplift history. Finally, I survey the western section and specifically, the fold backlimb where high-resolution topography and field mapping indicate long ridgelines that may preserve the uplifted and tilted alluvial fan morphology. I address changing landforms along the fold axis to test whether backlimb interfluves are paleosurfaces or the result of post-tectonic erosional hillslope processes. This work will be paired with future geochronology to update the ages of uplifted alluvial fan deposits and better constrain the timing of along-strike uplift of Wheeler Ridge.

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Date Created
  • 2015

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The roles of erosion rate and rock strength in the evolution of canyons along the Colorado River

Description

For this dissertation, three separate papers explore the study areas of the western Grand Canyon, the Grand Staircase (as related to Grand Canyon) and Desolation Canyon on the Green River

For this dissertation, three separate papers explore the study areas of the western Grand Canyon, the Grand Staircase (as related to Grand Canyon) and Desolation Canyon on the Green River in Utah.

In western Grand Canyon, I use comparative geomorphology between the Grand Canyon and the Grand Wash Cliffs (GWC). We propose the onset of erosion of the GWC is caused by slip on the Grand Wash Fault that formed between 18 and 12 million years ago. Hillslope angle and channel steepness are higher in Grand Canyon than along the Grand Wash Cliffs despite similar rock types, climate and base level fall magnitude. These experimental controls allow inference that the Grand Canyon is younger and eroding at a faster rate than the Grand Wash Cliffs.

The Grand Staircase is the headwaters of some of the streams that flow into Grand Canyon. A space-for-time substitution of erosion rates, supported by landscape simulations, implies that the Grand Canyon is the result of an increase in base level fall rate, with the older, slower base level fall rate preserved in the Grand Staircase. Our data and analyses also support a younger, ~6-million-year estimate of the age of Grand Canyon that is likely related to the integration of the Colorado River from the Colorado Plateau to the Basin and Range. Complicated cliff-band erosion and its effect on cosmogenic erosion rates are also explored, guiding interpretation of isotopic data in landscapes with stratigraphic variation in quartz and rock strength.

Several hypotheses for the erosion of Desolation Canyon are tested and refuted, leaving one plausible conclusion. I infer that the Uinta Basin north of Desolation Canyon is eroding slowly and that its form represents a slow, stable base level fall rate. Downstream of Desolation Canyon, the Colorado River is inferred to have established itself in the exhumed region of Canyonlands and to have incised to near modern depths prior to the integration of the Green River and the production of relief in Desolation Canyon. Analysis of incision and erosion rates in the region suggests integration is relatively recent.

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Created

Date Created
  • 2016