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Volume 19 Issue 7 (July 2009)

GSA Today

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Article, pp. 44-45 | Full Text | PDF (254KB)


The state of interactions among tectonics, erosion, and climate: A polemic

Peter Molnar1,*

1 Dept. of Geological Sciences, Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES), University of Colorado, Boulder, Colorado 80309-0399, USA

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Since Dahlen and Suppe (1988) showed that erosion can affect the tectonics of the region undergoing that erosion, geodynamicists, tectonic geologists, and geomorphologists have joined in an effort to unravel the interrelationships among not only erosion and tectonics but also climate, which affects erosion and is affected by tectonics. The fruits of this effort grow continually, as shown in part by the attraction that this subject has for students and young scientists. Yet, it seems to me that progress has been limited by a misconception that has stimulated this polemic. Much effort seems to be expended in trying to understand what “controls” erosion, tectonics, or climate, or what “drives” erosion, “rock uplift,” climate, and so forth. Although these questions are not meaningless in all cases, enough are.

Manuscript received 29 January 2009; accepted 2 February 2009.

doi: 10.1130/GSATG00GW.1

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