A new study has revealed that local and global changes in the climate have the ability to revamp a mountain’s topography.
For millions of years, global climate change has altered the structure and internal movement of mountain ranges, but the resulting glacial development and erosion can in turn change a mountain’s local climate. The degree of this cause-and-effect relationship has never been clearly observed, until now.
Based on research led by University of Cincinnati geologist Eva Enkelmann in the St. Elias Mountain Range, the way a mountain range moves and behaves topographically can also change and create its local climate by redirecting wind and precipitation. The repercussions of these changes can in turn, accelerate the erosion and tectonic seismic activity of that mountain range.
Based on her findings, Enkelmann shows clear evidence for a strong relationship between global and local climate change and a mountain’s internal tectonic plate shifts and topographic changes.
Looking at the St. Elias Mountains in particular, Enkelmann notes how dry it is in the northern part of the mountain range. But the precipitation is very high in the southern area, resulting in more erosion and material coming off the southern flanks. So as the climate change influences the erosion, that can produce a shift in the tectonics.
This has been suggested in earlier studies based on numerical and analytical models; however, it had not yet been shown to have occurred over geologic times in the real world.
This research is published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.