Necrogeomorphology and the life expectancy of desert bedrock landforms

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10 Scopus citations


This paper presents the first estimates for the life expectancy of the very surface of bedrock desert landforms, such as bornhardts, cliff faces, fault scarp, inselbergs, ridge crests, and slickrock. The correlative dating method of varnish microlaminations yields minimum ages for the timing of the last spalling event caused by the physical weathering process of dirt cracking. Minimum percentage of a bedrock surface spalled per thousand years is a metric that can be estimated using multiple varnish lamination ages. Understanding rates of surface spalling provides a quantitative measure of Gilbert’s (1877: 105) weathering-limited ‘rate of disintegration’, because this metric directly links to the rock disintegration process of dirt cracking. Rates of percent surface spalled then translate into estimates of how long it takes for the very surface of a desert bedrock landform to die. For a variety of example landforms in the southwestern USA, the maximum time required to completely resurface a desert bedrock landform by spalling from dirt cracking ranges from 89 to 600 ka.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)566-587
Number of pages22
JournalProgress in Physical Geography
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 1 2018


  • Dating
  • desert geomorphology
  • necrogeography
  • physical weathering
  • rock coatings

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • General Earth and Planetary Sciences


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