Hillslope development in areas of active tectonics

Ramon Arrowsmith, David D. Pollard, Dallas D. Rhodes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

39 Scopus citations


Tectonic and geomorphic displacements of the Earth's surface control topographic profile development; therefore, their analysis should be combined. In the model presented here, transient finite difference solutions to the continuity equation for material transport determine geomorphic displacements. The material transport rate is a function of distance from the divide to the power m, local slope to the power n, and a rate constant. Values of m and n may be adjusted to simulate processes varying from rainsplash and soil creep (i.e., diffusive; m = 0, n = 1) to slope wash and river flow (m > 0, n > 0). The actual geomorphic displacements may be transport or weathering-limited, depending on soil profile development. Superimposed edge dislocations in an elastic half-plane are used to model tectonic displacements. Slip along a normal or reverse fault of any dip, depth and down-dip length may be incremental (earthquake) or continuous (aseismic creep). Considering climate and material properties constant, the ratio of the transport capacity rate constant to the fault slip rate roughly determines form. This model extends existing morphologic diffusion erosion analyses to include other geomorphic conditions and processes (transport- or weathering-limited conditions, material flux boundary conditions, and the development of gullies and knickpoints) and more heterogeneous spatial and temporal distributions of tectonic displacement (such as those due to slip along buried thrust faults). We advocate calibration of these parameters and processes to provide a quantitative approach to modeling landform development, determining deformation rates, and inferring earthquake hazards.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)6255-6275
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 10 1996

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geochemistry and Petrology
  • Geophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)


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