Boulder weathering and erosion associated with a wildfire, Sierra Ancha Mountains, Arizona

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67 Scopus citations


An April-May 2000 "Coon Creek Fire" burned ∼37.5 km2 of the Sierra Ancha Mountains, 32.3 km miles north of Globe, AZ-including 25 sandstone and 19 diorite boulders surveyed in 1989 and resurveyed after the burn, after the summer 2000 monsoon season, and after the winter 2001 season. When viewed from the perspective of cumulative eroded area, both sandstone and diorite displayed bimodal patterns with 79% of sandstone boulder area and 93% of diorite boulder area undergoing either no fire-induced erosion or fire-induced erosion >76 mm. When stretched over cumulative boulder areas, erosion due to the fire averaged >26 mm for sandstone and >42 mm for diorite. Post-fire erosion from thunderstorm summer rains averaged <1 mm for 5 diorite and 1 mm for 10 sandstone boulders. While only a single diorite boulder eroded an average of 1.2 mm after the winter, winter erosion removed an average of 5.5 mm from 14 sandstone boulders. Thus, fire appears to increase a rock's susceptibility to post-fire weathering and erosion processes, as predicted by Goudie et al. [Earth Surf. Process. Landf. 17 (1992) 605]. In contrast to experimental research indicating the importance of size in fire weathering, no statistically significant relationship exists between erosion and boulder height or boulder surface area-a result similar to Zimmerman et al. [Quat. Res. 42 (1994) 255]. These data exclude 12 original sites and 85 boulders at sites impacted by the fire that could not be relocated, with a reasonable cause for the lack of relocation being boulder obliteration by the fire. Given evidence from 10Be and 26Al cosmogenic nuclides [Earth Planet. Sci. Lett. 186 (2001) 269] supporting the importance of boulders in controlling evolution of nonglaciated, bouldered landscapes [Geol. Soc. Amer. Bull. 76 (1965) 1165], fire obliteration of boulders could be an important process driving drainage evolution in nonglaciated mountains.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)155-171
Number of pages17
Issue number1-4
StatePublished - Sep 30 2003


  • Arizona
  • Boulder
  • Erosion
  • Fire
  • Geomorphology
  • Landforms
  • Landscape evolution
  • Sierra Ancha Mountains
  • Weathering

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Earth-Surface Processes


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