Orogen response to changes in climatic and tectonic forcing

Kelin X. Whipple, Brendan J. Meade

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

176 Scopus citations


Despite much progress, many questions remain regarding the potential dynamic coupling between atmospheric and lithospheric processes in the long-term evolution of mountain belts. As a complement to recent efforts to discover the interrelationships among climate, topography, erosion, and rock deformation under conditions of mass-flux steady state, we explore orogen response to changes in climate and tectonic influx. We derive an analytical model that predicts a powerful climatic control on orogen evolution and distinct, potentially diagnostic, responses to climatic and tectonic perturbations. Due to isostatic compensation, the near-surface rock uplift rate during transients is tightly coupled to climate-modulated erosional efficiency. System response is approximately exponential, with a characteristic response timescale that is inversely proportional to the climate- and lithology-modulated erosional efficiency, and is largely insensitive to initial conditions, tectonic influx, and both the sign and magnitude of perturbations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)218-228
Number of pages11
JournalEarth and Planetary Science Letters
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - Mar 15 2006
Externally publishedYes


  • Climate
  • Critical wedge
  • Erosion
  • Rock uplift
  • Tectonics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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