2023 CSDMS meeting-104


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Drainage network reorganization in landscapes buried by glacial deposits

Jeffrey Kwang, (He/Him),University of Minnesota Twin-Cities Minneapolis Minnesota, United States. jeffskwang@gmail.com
Andrew Wickert, University of Minnesota Twin-Cities Minneapolis Minnesota, United States.
Isaac Larsen, University of Massachusetts Amherst Amherst Massachusetts, United States.

For landscapes to achieve a topographic steady state, they require steady tectonic uplift and climate, and a bedrock that is uniformly erodible in the vertical direction. Basic landscape evolution models predict that incising drainage networks will eventually reach a static geometric equilibrium – that is, the map-view channel pattern will remain constant. In contrast, natural rivers typically incise through heterogeneous bedrock, which can force reorganization of the drainage structure. To investigate how lithological variability can force landscape reorganization, we draw inspiration from formerly glaciated portions of the upper Mississippi Valley. In this region, depth-to-bedrock maps reveal buried dendritic river networks dissecting paleozoic sedimentary rock. During the Pleistocene, ice advance buried the bedrock topography with glacial till, resurfacing the landscape and resetting the landscape evolution clock. As newly formed drainage networks develop and incise into the till-covered surface, they exhume the buried bedrock topography. This then leads to a geomorphic "decision point": Will the rivers follow the course of the bedrock paleodrainage network? Or will they maintain their new pattern? Using a numerical landscape evolution model, we find that two parameters determine this decision: (1) the contrast between the rock erodibility of the glacial till (more erodible) and of the buried sedimentary rock (less erodible) and (2) the orientation of the surface drainage network with respect to the buried network. We find that as the erodibility contrast increases, the drainage pattern is more likely to reorganize to follow the buried bedrock valleys. Additionally, as the alignment of the two networks increases, the surface drainage network also tends to restructure itself to follow the paleodrainage network. However, when there is less contrast and/or alignment, the surface drainage pattern becomes superimposed on the bedrock topography, with streams cutting across buried bedrock ridges. Our results agree with field studies demonstrating that variability in erodibility exerts a first-order control on landscape evolution and morphology. Our findings can provide insight into how lithologic variation affects surface processes, drives drainage reorganization, and creates geopatterns.