Monday, July 02, 2007

Sediment Flux and Luggage Carousels

Research that I have been doing recently involves the study of sediment flux. That is, what is the history, the temporal distribution, of the erosion, transport, and deposition of sediment. From the erosion of a particle in the uplands, into a river system, perhaps spending some time in a coastal system, and then into a deep marine basin. I've been looking at a temporal scale of hundreds to thousands of years, but one could examine this at a scale of millions of years. Of course, the farther back into Earth history, the lower the resolution. Moreover, the farther back in Earth history, the more fragmented is the contextual information about the system. Investigating sediment flux requires a lot of context

The ultimate question is, of course: what are the controls on sediment flux? Can we deconvolve interacting factors including, but not limited to:

  • climate (e.g., increased precipitation leading to increased runoff/streamflow)
  • sea-level stands (e.g., lowstands of sea level during glacial maxima)
  • tectonic movements (e.g., increased uplift rate of sediment source area leading to increased erosion rate)
  • intrinsic behavior of the sedimentary system (e.g., meandering of a river, migration of dunes and other bedforms, distributive patterns, etc.)

This is what I spend my time pondering. Earlier today I was standing at the luggage carousel in the airport. Everybody stands there staring at the mouth of the conveyor from where their bag (hopefully) appears. We stand there and wonder what controls the order, why the delivery of bags come in clusters, and other nonsense....essentially, we are wondering what is controlling the flux of luggage. Well, maybe only I wonder this.....anyway, all we have to do to figure this out is simply observe what is happening on the other side of the luggage delivery system.

I don't really care about luggage delivery systems...I just want my bag. But I do care about sedimentary systems. It's definitely more complex than the carousel too. In the coming weeks I am going to post more about this area of my research. Check out a post from February in the meantime.

Image at top of Santa Ynez Creek, California; from Jon Warrick's work

2 comments:

Miguel Vera said...

That's great Brian. You know, I'm currently taking stratigraphy at the university and I'm getting more and more interested in subjects like sequence stratigraphy, seismic profiles, sediment flux rates and so on. Keep 'em coming!

Brian said...

i will...stratigraphy and the history of its development is really interesting...stay tuned