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Alluvial fan depositional records from north and south-facing catchments in semi-arid montane terrain

  • Michael J. Poulos (a1) and Jennifer L. Pierce (a1)

Valley asymmetry reflects differences in landform evolution with aspect; however, few studies assess rates and timing of asymmetric erosion. In south-central Idaho, we combine alluvial fan volume reconstructions with radiocarbon deposit dating to compare the source-catchment normalized fan deposition rates of catchments incised into north (n=5) and south-facing (n=3) valleys, which differ during the late Holocene from 7.7 to 10.1 mm/ka, respectively, but are not significantly different. South-facing catchments produced 1.3× more fan sediment per unit source-area during the late Holocene, whereas over the last 10 Ma they have evolved to be 2.1× larger with 2.8× greater eroded volumes and 7.6° gentler slopes (24.5° versus 32.1°, average). Late Holocene differences in sediment yields with aspect cannot fully explain differences in landforms. Potential bias in sediment deposition and/or remobilization cannot fully explain the similarity of erosion rates during the late Holocene. Valley asymmetry appears to have developed primarily during different conditions. While valley asymmetry development may be quicker during glacial climates, development is likely accelerated early in a valley’s history, such as during initial valley incision, because asymmetric degradation serves as a negative feedback that reduces aspect-related differences in erosion and drives valleys towards steady state.

Corresponding author
*Corresponding author at: Department of Geosciences, Boise State University, 1910 University Drive, Boise, Idaho 83725, USA. E-mail address:; (M. Poulos).
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