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Title: Contemporary movement of rock glaciers in the La Sal and Uinta Mountains, Utah, USA
Rock glaciers are common landforms in mountainous areas of the western US. The motion of active rock glaciers is a key indicator of ice content, offering connections to climate and hydrologic systems. Here, we quantified the movement of six rock glaciers in the La Sal and Uinta Mountains of Utah through repeat differential GPS surveying. Networks of 10–41 points on each rock glacier were surveyed in September 2021; July 2022; September 2022; and July 2023. We found that all features are moving with average annual rates of motion from 1.5 ± 0.8 to 18.5 ± 7.5 cm/yr. Rock glaciers move up to 3× faster in the summer than in the winter, and rates of motion were greater in 2023 after a winter with above-average snowfall, emphasizing the role of liquid water availability. Velocities of individual points in the winter of 2021–22 are positively correlated with velocities during the winter of 2022–23, suggesting that spatial variability of motion is not stochastic, but rather reflects internal properties of each rock glacier. Bottom temperature of snow measurements during winter, and the temperature of springs discharging water in summer, suggest that these rock glaciers contain modern permafrost. Radiocarbon data document advance of one rock glacier during the Little Ice Age. Our GPS dataset reveals complicated patterns of rock glacier movement, and the network of survey points we established will be a valuable baseline for detecting future cryosphere change in these mountains.  more » « less
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Date Published:
Journal Name:
Quaternary Science Advances
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Subject(s) / Keyword(s):
["Rock glacier\nLa Sal mountains\nUinta Mountains\nGPS\nUtah"]
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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