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Concept: Landform


It has been proposed that ~3.4 billion years ago an ocean fed by enormous catastrophic floods covered most of the Martian northern lowlands. However, a persistent problem with this hypothesis is the lack of definitive paleoshoreline features. Here, based on geomorphic and thermal image mapping in the circum-Chryse and northwestern Arabia Terra regions of the northern plains, in combination with numerical analyses, we show evidence for two enormous tsunami events possibly triggered by bolide impacts, resulting in craters ~30 km in diameter and occurring perhaps a few million years apart. The tsunamis produced widespread littoral landforms, including run-up water-ice-rich and bouldery lobes, which extended tens to hundreds of kilometers over gently sloping plains and boundary cratered highlands, as well as backwash channels where wave retreat occurred on highland-boundary surfaces. The ice-rich lobes formed in association with the younger tsunami, showing that their emplacement took place following a transition into a colder global climatic regime that occurred after the older tsunami event. We conclude that, on early Mars, tsunamis played a major role in generating and resurfacing coastal terrains.

Concepts: Climate, Greek loanwords, Mars, Pacific Ocean, 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake, Tsunami, Flood, Landform


Many spatial interpolation methods perform well for gentle terrains when producing spatially continuous surfaces based on ground point data. However, few interpolation methods perform satisfactorily for complex terrains. Our objective in the present study was to analyze the suitability of several popular interpolation methods for complex terrains and propose an optimal method. A data set of 153 soil water profiles (1 m) from the semiarid hilly gully Loess Plateau of China was used, generated under a wide range of land use types, vegetation types and topographic positions. Four spatial interpolation methods, including ordinary kriging, inverse distance weighting, linear regression and regression kriging were used for modeling, randomly partitioning the data set into 2/3 for model fit and 1/3 for independent testing. The performance of each method was assessed quantitatively in terms of mean-absolute-percentage-error, root-mean-square-error, and goodness-of-prediction statistic. The results showed that the prediction accuracy differed significantly between each method in complex terrain. The ordinary kriging and inverse distance weighted methods performed poorly due to the poor spatial autocorrelation of soil moisture at small catchment scale with complex terrain, where the environmental impact factors were discontinuous in space. The linear regression model was much more suitable to the complex terrain than the former two distance-based methods, but the predicted soil moisture changed too sharply near the boundary of the land use types and junction of the sunny (southern) and shady (northern) slopes, which was inconsistent with reality because soil moisture should change gradually in short distance due to its mobility in soil. The most optimal interpolation method in this study for the complex terrain was the hybrid regression kriging, which produced a detailed, reasonable prediction map with better accuracy and prediction effectiveness.

Concepts: Regression analysis, Linear regression, Statistics, Forecasting, Interpolation, Landform, Kriging, Multivariate interpolation


This research investigated how the strength of vegetation-soil-topography couplings varied along a gradient of biogeomorphic succession in two distinct fluvial systems: a forested river floodplain and a coastal salt marsh creek. The strength of couplings was quantified as tri-variance, which was calculated by correlating three singular axes, one each extracted using three-block partial least squares from vegetation, soil, and topography data blocks. Within each system, tri-variance was examined at low-, mid-, and high-elevation sites, which represented early-, intermediate-, and late-successional phases, respectively, and corresponded to differences in ongoing disturbance frequency and intensity. Both systems exhibited clearly increasing tri-variance from the early- to late-successional stages. The lowest-lying sites underwent frequent and intense hydrogeomorphic forcings that dynamically reworked soil substrates, restructured surface landforms, and controlled the colonization of plant species. Such conditions led vegetation, soil, and topography to show discrete, stochastic, and individualistic behaviors over space and time, resulting in a loose coupling among the three ecosystem components. In the highest-elevation sites, in contrast, disturbances that might disrupt the existing biotic-abiotic relationships were less common. Hence, ecological succession, soil-forming processes, and landform evolution occurred in tight conjunction with one another over a prolonged period, thereby strengthening couplings among them; namely, the three behaved in unity over space and time. We propose that the recurrence interval of physical disturbance is important to-and potentially serves as an indicator of-the intensity and mechanisms of vegetation-soil-topography feedbacks in fluvial biogeomorphic systems.

Concepts: Time, Ecology, Gradient, Ecosystem, Partial derivative, Ecological succession, Geomorphology, Landform


Thermokarst is a land surface lowered and disrupted by melting ground ice. Thermokarst is a major driver of landscape change in the Arctic, but has been considered to be a minor process in Antarctica. Here, we use ground-based and airborne LiDAR coupled with timelapse imaging and meteorological data to show that 1) thermokarst formation has accelerated in Garwood Valley, Antarctica; 2) the rate of thermokarst erosion is presently ~ 10 times the average Holocene rate; and 3) the increased rate of thermokarst formation is driven most strongly by increasing insolation and sediment/albedo feedbacks. This suggests that sediment enhancement of insolation-driven melting may act similarly to expected increases in Antarctic air temperature (presently occurring along the Antarctic Peninsula), and may serve as a leading indicator of imminent landscape change in Antarctica that will generate thermokarst landforms similar to those in Arctic periglacial terrains.

Concepts: Topography, Antarctica, McMurdo Dry Valleys, Victoria Land, McMurdo Sound, Valley, Landform, Terrain


Concentrations of particulate emissions from a quarry located in hilly terrain were calculated by two common atmospheric dispersion models, AERMOD and CALPUFF. Evaluation of these models for emissions from quarries/open pit mines that are located in complex topography is missing from the literature. Due to severe uncertainties in the input parameters, numerous scenarios were simulated and model sensitivity was studied. Model results were compared among themselves, and to measured total suspended particulate (TSP). For a wide range of meteorological and topographical conditions studied, AERMOD predictions were in a better agreement with the measurements than those obtained by CALPUFF. The use of AERMOD’s “Open pit” tool seems unnecessary when accurate digital topographic data are available. Onsite meteorological data are shown to be crucial for reliable dispersion calculations in complex terrain.

Concepts: Particulate, Air pollution, Topography, Landform, Terrain, Atmospheric dispersion modeling


Land use impacts are commonly quantified and compared using 2D maps, limiting the scale of their reported impacts to surface area estimates. Yet, nearly all land use involves disturbances below the land surface. Incorporating this third dimension into our estimates of land use impact is especially important when examining the impacts of mining. Mountaintop mining is the most common form of coal mining in the Central Appalachian ecoregion. Previous estimates suggest that active, reclaimed or abandoned mountaintop mines cover ~7% of Central Appalachia. While this is double the areal extent of development in the ecoregion (estimated to occupy <3% of the land area), the impacts are far more extensive than areal estimates alone can convey as the impacts of mines extend 10s to 100s of meters below the current land surface. Here, we provide the first estimates for the total volumetric and topographic disturbance associated with mining in a 11,500 km2 region of southern West Virginia. We find that the cutting of ridges and filling of valleys has lowered the median slope of mined landscapes in the region by nearly 10 degrees while increasing their average elevation by 3m as a result of expansive valley filling. We estimate that in southern West Virginia, more than 6.4km3 of bedrock has been broken apart and deposited into 1,544 headwater valley fills. We used NPDES monitoring datatsets available for 91 of these valley fills to explore whether fill characteristics could explain variation in the pH or selenium concentrations reported for streams draining these fills. We found that the volume of overburden in individual valley fills correlates with stream pH and selenium concentration, and suggest that a three-dimensional assessment of MTMVF impacts is necessary to predict both the severity and the longevity of the resulting environmental impacts.

Concepts: Mining, Area, Topography, Appalachia, Landform, Terrain, West Virginia, Southern West Virginia


Topographic variation underpins a myriad of patterns and processes in hydrology, climatology, geography and ecology and is key to understanding the variation of life on the planet. A fully standardized and global multivariate product of different terrain features has the potential to support many large-scale research applications, however to date, such datasets are unavailable. Here we used the digital elevation model products of global 250 m GMTED2010 and near-global 90 m SRTM4.1dev to derive a suite of topographic variables: elevation, slope, aspect, eastness, northness, roughness, terrain roughness index, topographic position index, vector ruggedness measure, profile/tangential curvature, first/second order partial derivative, and 10 geomorphological landform classes. We aggregated each variable to 1, 5, 10, 50 and 100 km spatial grains using several aggregation approaches. While a cross-correlation underlines the high similarity of many variables, a more detailed view in four mountain regions reveals local differences, as well as scale variations in the aggregated variables at different spatial grains. All newly-developed variables are available for download at Data Citation 1 and for download and visualization at

Concepts: Derivative, Topography, Physical geography, Topographic map, Geomorphology, Digital elevation model, Landform, Terrain


Crowley et al. (Reports, 13 March 2015, p. 1237) propose that abyssal hill topography can be generated by variations in volcanism at mid-ocean ridges modulated by Milankovitch cycle-driven changes in sea level. Published values for abyssal hill characteristic widths versus spreading rate do not generally support this hypothesis. I argue that abyssal hills are primarily fault-generated rather than volcanically generated features.

Concepts: Earth, Plate tectonics, Lithosphere, Oceanography, Ocean, Basalt, Landform, Mid-ocean ridge


Various physical attributes of the Earth’s surface are factors that influence local topography and indirectly influence human behaviour in terms of habitation locations. The determination of geomorphological setting plays an important role in archaeological landscape research. Several landform types can be distinguished by characteristic geomorphic attributes that portray the landscape surrounding a settlement and influence its ability to sustain a population. Geomorphometric landform information, derived from digital elevation models (DEMs), such as the ASTER Global DEM, can provide useful insights into the processes shaping landscapes. This work examines the influence of landform classification on the settlement locations of Bronze Age (Minoan) Crete, focusing on the districts of Phaistos, Kavousi and Vrokastro. The landform classification was based on the topographic position index (TPI) and deviation from mean elevation (DEV) analysis to highlight slope steepness of various landform classes, characterizing the surrounding landscape environment of the settlements locations. The outcomes indicate no interrelationship between the settlement locations and topography during the Early Minoan period, but a significant interrelationship exists during the later Minoan periods with the presence of more organised societies. The landform classification can provide insights into factors favouring human habitation and can contribute to archaeological predictive modelling.

Concepts: Earth, Topography, Physical geography, Minoan civilization, Geomorphology, Digital elevation model, Landform, Crete


The dynamics of speed selection as a function of distance, or pacing, are used in recreational, competitive, and scientific research situations as an indirect measure of the psycho-physiological status of an individual. The purpose of this study was to determine pacing on level, uphill and downhill sections of participants in a long (>80 km) ultramarathon performed on trails in hilly terrain.

Concepts: Scientific method, Mathematics, Function, Science, Research, Landform