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Earth Surface Dynamics An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union

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© Author(s) 2014. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.
Research article
28 Aug 2014
Review status
This discussion paper is a preprint. It has been under review for the journal Earth Surface Dynamics (ESurf). The revised manuscript was not accepted.
Trail formation by ice-shoved "sailing stones" observed at Racetrack Playa, Death Valley National Park
R. D. Lorenz1, J. M. Norris2, B. K. Jackson3, R. D. Norris4, J. W. Chadbourne5, and J. Ray2 1Applied Physics Laboratory, The Johns Hopkins University, Laurel, Maryland, USA
2Interwoof, Santa Barbara, California, USA
3Dept.~of Terrestrial Magnetism, Carnegie Institution for Science, Washington, D.C., USA
4Scripps Institution of Oceanography, La Jolla, California, USA
5University of Portland, Oregon, USA
Abstract. Trails in the usually-hard mud of Racetrack Playa in Death Valley National Park attest to the seemingly-improbable movement of massive rocks on an exceptionally flat surface. The movement of these rocks, previously described as "sliding stones", "playa scrapers", "sailing stones" etc., has been the subject of speculation for almost a century but is an exceptionally rare phenomenon and until now has not been directly observed. Here we report documentation of multiple rock movement and trail formation events in the winter of 2013–2014 by in situ observation, video, timelapse cameras, a dedicated meteorological station and GPS tracking of instrumented rocks. Movement involved dozens of rocks, forming fresh trails typically of 10s of meters length at speeds of ~5 cm s−1 and were caused by wind stress on a transient thin layer of floating ice. Fracture and local thinning of the ice decouples some rocks from the ice movement, such that only a subset of rocks move in a given event.
Citation: Lorenz, R. D., Norris, J. M., Jackson, B. K., Norris, R. D., Chadbourne, J. W., and Ray, J.: Trail formation by ice-shoved "sailing stones" observed at Racetrack Playa, Death Valley National Park, Earth Surf. Dynam. Discuss., 2, 1005-1022,, 2014.
R. D. Lorenz et al.
Interactive discussionStatus: closed
AC: Author comment | RC: Referee comment | SC: Short comment | EC: Editor comment
Printer-friendly Version - Printer-friendly version      Supplement - Supplement
RC C376: 'Referee Comments', R Aileen Yingst, 15 Sep 2014 Printer-friendly Version 
RC C511: 'Review', Roger Hooke, 27 Nov 2014 Printer-friendly Version Supplement 
AC C512: 'Response to reviews - additional information on rock breakup and on ice buckling', Ralph D. Lorenz, 12 Dec 2014 Printer-friendly Version Supplement 
R. D. Lorenz et al.


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