Glacial erosion in the tropics: The Santa Marta Range, southern Caribbean

Theme: Solid Earth Dynamics

Primary Supervisor:

Matthew Fox

Earth Sciences, UCL

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Secondary Supervisor:

Andrew Carter

Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, BBK

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Project Description:

Earth’s climate is modulated by erosional processes that reduce atmospheric carbon dioxide due to weathering reactions at freshly exposed bedrock. During the Pleistocene, dramatic glaciations played a major role in shaping topography and setting erosion rates, and these increased erosion rate are thought to have a major role in the evolving climate. This is especially important in the tropics, where warm wet conditions lead to accelerated weathering reaction rates.

This project will be the first to constrain glacial erosion across a low-latitude glaciated mountain range, the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta (SNSM) in Northern Colombia. It will use a combination of dating methods and numerical models. In particular, we will use apatite 4He/3He and detrital thermochronometry, with thermal kinematic-geomorphic models to constrain exhumation rates which are controlled by tectonic uplift and erosion. We will use cosmogenic nuclides to date glacial moraines and use ice sheets models to understand climatic conditions here. This integrated approach will provide a direct understanding of glaciation and the glacial buzzsaw at low-latitude

Policy Impact of Research:

We will work with the UCL Institute for Risk and Disaster Reduction to provide seismic hazard maps for the areas around the SNSM. In addition, we will work with the GeoBus to provide glacial erosion practicals to London school children.

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