CSDMS 2011 annual meeting - Impact of time and process scales

Feedbacks between surface processes and flexural isostasy: a motivation for coupling models

Andrew Wickert

University of Colorado, Boulder, United States

Answers to scientific questions often involve coupled systems that lie within separate fields of study. An example of this is flexural isostasy and surface mass transport. Erosion, deposition, and moving ice masses change loads on the Earth surface, which induce a flexural isostatic response. These isostatic deflections in turn change topography, which is a large control on surface processes. We couple a landscape evolution model (CHILD) and a flexural isostasy model (Flexure) within the CSDMS framework to understand interactions between these processes. We highlight a few scenarios in which this feedback is crucial for understanding what happens on the surface of the Earth: foredeeps around mountain belts, rivers at the margins of large ice sheets, and the "old age" of decaying mountain ranges. We also show how the response changes from simple analytical solutions for flexural isostasy to numerical solutions that allow us to explore spatial variability in lithospheric strength. This work places the spotlight on the kinds of advances that can be made when members of the broader Earth surface process community design their models to be coupleable, share them, and connect them under the unified framework developed by CSDMS. We encourage Earth surface scientists to unleash their creativity in constructing, sharing, and coupling their models to better learn how these building blocks make up the wonderfully complicated Earth surface system.

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Of interest for:
  • Terrestrial Working Group
  • Coastal Working Group