The influence of climate and microclimate (aspect) on soil creep efficiency: Cinder cone morphology and evolution along the eastern Mediterranean Golan Heights

Matan Ben-Asher, Itai Haviv, Joshua J. Roering, Onn Crouvi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations

Abstract

Although hillslope evolution has been subject to much investigation for more than a century, the effect of climate on the morphology of soil-mantled hillslopes remains poorly constrained. In this study, we perform numerical simulations of volcanic cinder cones in the Golan Heights (eastern Mediterranean) to estimate soil transport efficiency across a significant north–south gradient in mean annual precipitation (1100 to 500 mm). We use the initial cinder cone morphology (constrained by stratigraphy), the modern hillslope form (surveyed with sub-meter accuracy) and the eruption age (based on 40Ar–39Ar chronology) to predict the best-fit value of the soil transport coefficient (‘diffusivity’) based on a nonlinear transport model. Our results indicate that the best-fit diffusivity (K) varies from 1 to 6 m2 ka−1 among the five cinder cones in our field area. Diffusivity (K) values vary systematically with precipitation and hillslope aspect; specifically, K is higher on south-facing (drier) hillslopes and decreases with mean annual precipitation. We interpret this climate dependency to reflect vegetation-driven variations in apparent soil cohesion, which increases with root network density, and attenuation of rain splash and overland flow erosion, which increases with vegetative ground cover. To assess how vegetative root mass and ground cover vary with precipitation and aspect, we quantified the spatial distribution of NDVI (normalized difference vegetation index) from ASTER satellite images and observed spatial variations that correlate with our calibrated values of K. Analysis of previously studied cinder cones in the USA can be used to extend our framework to arid domains. This endeavor suggests a humped relationship between K and precipitation with maximum diffusivity at mean annual precipitation of 400–600 mm.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2649-2662
Number of pages14
JournalEarth Surface Processes and Landforms
Volume42
Issue number15
DOIs
StatePublished - 1 Dec 2017

Keywords

  • NDVI
  • aspect asymmetry
  • cinder cones
  • hillslope evolution
  • landscape evolution
  • nonlinear diffusion
  • soil creep

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