Measuring the Timing, Magnitude, and Rate of Rock uplift of Sierra Madre Mountains with CRN Analysis of Relict Landscapes and Strath Terraces

Tuesday, 16 December 2014
Eric Schoettle1, Douglas W Burbank1 and Bodo Bookhagen2, (1)University of California Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara, CA, United States, (2)University of Potsdam, Potsdam, Germany
California’s Sierra Madre Mountains lie at the junction of the Coast and Transverse Ranges, where they form an arcuate range crest with peak elevations of nearly 1,800 m. Near the range crest, a gently sloping paleovalley in the Southern Sierra Madre is being consumed by the headward migration of a prominent knickpoint, with an ~250-m-high headwall abutting below the gently sloped paleovalley. This paleovalley at 1400 m elevation and other low-relief, high-elevation remnants in the Sierra Madres at elevations from 800-1400 m show that the range is young enough to have regions not yet in equilibrium with the modern base level and uplift rate. Toward the western end of the Sierra Madre, the Cuyama River cuts a bedrock canyon through the range. The canyon planform describes a meandering river that has now incised ~400 m into the range. The combination of (i) high-altitude, low-relief surfaces in the Sierra Madre including the paleovalley with (ii) a meandering planform that has been incised into bedrock by a transverse river suggests (1) a low-altitude meandering proto-Cuyama river preceded significant rock uplift, and (2) the river’s incision records the rock uplift of the range. Using cosmogenic nuclides to measure both the bedrock-lowering rate of the high-elevation paleovalley and the erosion rate of the steep catchment eroding into it, we can place some limits on the timing and magnitude of rock uplift in the range. By dating bedrock straths along the river canyon’s walls, we can directly quantify the pace of channel incision. Together these new estimates will yield an improved reconstruction of the timing, magnitude, and rate of rock uplift of the Sierra Madre.