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Earth Surface Dynamics An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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Discussion papers
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Research article 22 May 2019

Research article | 22 May 2019

Review status
This discussion paper is a preprint. It is a manuscript under review for the journal Earth Surface Dynamics (ESurf).

Inferring the timing of abandonment of aggraded alluvial surfaces dated with cosmogenic nuclides

Mitch K. D'Arcy1,2, Taylor F. Schildgen2,1, Jens M. Turowski2, and Pedro DiNezio3 Mitch K. D'Arcy et al.
  • 1Institute of Geosciences, University of Potsdam, Karl-Liebknecht-Strasse 24/25,14476 Potsdam, Germany
  • 2GFZ German Research Centre for Geosciences, Telegrafenberg, 14473 Potsdam, Germany
  • 3Institute for Geophysics, Jackson School of Geosciences, University of Texas at Austin, J.J. Pickle Research Campus, Building 196 10100 Burnet Road(R2200), Austin, TX 78758, USA

Abstract. Information about past climate, tectonics, and landscape evolution is often obtained by dating geomorphic surfaces comprising deposited or aggraded material, e.g., fluvial fill terraces, alluvial fans, volcanic flows, or glacial till. Although surface ages can provide valuable information about these landforms, they can only constrain the period of active deposition of surface material, which may span a significant period of time in the case of alluvial landforms. In contrast, surface abandonment often occurs abruptly and coincides with important events like drainage reorganisation, climate change, or landscape uplift. However, abandonment cannot be directly dated because it represents a cessation in the deposition of dateable material. In this study, we present a new approach to inferring when a surface was likely abandoned using exposure ages derived from in situ-produced cosmogenic nuclides. We use artificial data to measure the discrepancy between the youngest age randomly sampled from a surface and the true timing of surface abandonment. Our analyses simulate surface dating scenarios with variable durations of surface formation and variable numbers of sample exposure ages. From our artificial data, we derive a set of probabilistic equations and a Matlab tool that can be applied to a set of real sampled surface ages to estimate the probable period of time within which abandonment is likely to have occurred. Our new approach to constraining surface abandonment has applications for geomorphological studies that relate surface ages to tectonic deformation, past climate, or the rates of surface processes.

Mitch K. D'Arcy et al.
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Mitch K. D'Arcy et al.
Data sets

Artificial data – Probabilistic age sampling M. D'Arcy, T. F. Schildgen, J. M. Turowski, and P. DiNezio

Mitch K. D'Arcy et al.
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Publications Copernicus
Short summary
The age of formation of sedimentary deposits is often interpreted to record information about past environmental changes. Here, we show that the timing of abandonment of surfaces also provides valuable information. We derive a new set of equations that can be used to estimate when a sedimentary surface was abandoned, based on what is known about its activity from surface dating. Estimates of abandonment age can benefit a variety of geomorphic analyses, which we illustrate with a case study.
The age of formation of sedimentary deposits is often interpreted to record information about...