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Sierra Nevada rose to current height earlier than thought, say Stanford geologists
Date:4/23/2008

es in the subsurface structure of the mountains, Mulch said.

"There was a very dense root of the Sierra Nevada, rock material that became so dense that it actually detached and sank down into the Earth's mantle, just because of density differences," Mulch said. "If you remove a very heavy weight at the base of something, the surface will rebound."

The rebound of the range after losing such a massive amount of material should have been substantial. But, Mulch said, "We do not observe any change in the surface elevation of the Sierra Nevada at that time, and that's what we were trying to test in this model."

However, Mulch said he does not think his results refute the geophysical evidence. It could be that the Sierra Nevada did not evolve uniformly along its 400-mile length, he said. The geophysical data indicating the loss of the crustal root is from the southern Sierra Nevada; Mulch's study focused more on the northern and central part of the range. In the southern Sierra Nevada, the weather patterns are different, and the rain shadow effect that Mulch's approach hinges on is less pronounced.

"That's why it's important to have information that's coming from deeper parts of the Earth's crust and from the surface and try to correlate these two," Mulch said. To really understand periods in the Earth's past where climate conditions were markedly different from today, he said, "you need to have integrated studies."


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Contact: Louis Bergeron
louisb3@stanford.edu
650-725-1944
Stanford University
Source:Eurekalert

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