Faculty Publications


Spatial patterns of glacial erosion at a valley scale derived from terrestrial cosmogenic 10Be and 26Al concentrations in rock

Document Type



Cosmogenic nuclides, Glacial erosion, Sierra Nevada, Wind River Range

Journal/Book/Conference Title

Annals of the Association of American Geographers





First Page


Last Page



The fundamentally geographic issue of the amounts and spatial patterns of erosion necessary to produce classic glacial landforms such as U-shaped valleys has been debated by scientists for over a century. Terrestrial cosmogenic nuclide (TCN) measurements in glacially abraded bedrock were used to determine patterns of glacial erosion and to quantify the amount of rock removed during the last glaciation along valley-side transects in Sinks Canyon, Wind River Range, Wyoming, and the South Yuba River, Sierra Nevada, California. Surface exposure ages from bedrock and erratic samples obtained during this study indicate last deglaciation between 13-18 ka in the South Yuba River and 15-17 ka in Sinks Canyon. These ages are in agreement with previously published glacial chronologies. In both areas, samples from valley cross sections revealed a pattern of erosion during the last glaciation that decreased toward the lateral limit of ice extent, as predicted by numerical models, while transects further upstream recorded >1.4 meters of bedrock removal throughout. The effects of varying interglacial erosion and surface exposure histories on modeled glacial erosion depths were tested, validating the methodology used. The results demonstrate that the TCN technique, applied at the valley scale, provides useful insight into the spatial pattern of glacial erosion. Extensive sampling in areas with limited erosional loss may provide detailed records of erosion patterns with which to test predictions generated by models of ice dynamics and erosion processes. © 2004 by Association of American Geographers.

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