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  1. 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. 
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    Free, publicly-accessible full text available June 1, 2025
  2. Abstract

    Mountain environments are profoundly impacted by the deposition of mineral dust, yet the degree to which this material is far-traveled or intra-regional is typically unclear. This distinction is fundamental to model future changes in mountain geoecosystems resulting from climatic or anthropogenic forcing in dust source regions. We address this question with a network of 17 passive dust samplers installed in primarily mountain locations in Utah, Nevada, and Idaho between October, 2020 and October 2021. For each collector, the dust deposition rate was calculated, and the physical and chemical properties of the dust were constrained. Results were combined with backward trajectory modeling to identify the geologic characteristics of the area over which air passed most frequently in route to each collector (the ‘hot spot’). Dust properties differ significantly between collectors, hot spots for many collectors are spatially discrete, and the dominant geologies in the hot spots corresponding to each collector vary considerably. These results support the hypothesis that the majority of the dust deposited in the areas we studied is sourced from arid lowlands in the surrounding region.

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  3. Rock glaciers are common geomorphic features in alpine landscapes and comprise a potentially significant but poorly quantified water resource. This project focused on three complementary questions germane to rock glacier hydrology: 1) Does the composition of rock glacier meltwater vary from year to year? 2) How dependent is the composition of rock glacier meltwater on lithology? And 3) How does the presence of rock glaciers in a catchment change stream water chemistry? To address these questions, we deployed automated samplers to collect water from late June through mid-October 2022 in two rock-glacierized mountain ranges in Utah, United States characterized by different lithologies. In the Uinta Mountains of northern Utah, where bedrock is predominantly quartzite, water was collected at springs discharging from two rock glaciers previously shown to release water in late summer sourced from internal ice. In the La Sal Mountains of southeastern Utah, where trachyte bedrock is widespread, water was collected at a rock glacier spring, along the main stream in a watershed containing multiple rock glaciers, and from a stream in a watershed where rock glaciers are absent. Precipitation was also collected, and data loggers for water temperature and electric conductivity were deployed. Water samples were analyzed for stable isotopes with cavity ring-down spectroscopy and hydrochemistry with ICP-MS. Our data show that water discharging from rock glaciers in the Uinta Mountains exhibits a shift from a snowmelt source to an internal ice source over the course of the melt season that is consistent from year to year. We also found that the chemistry of rock glacier water in the two study areas is notably different in ways that can be linked back to their contrasting bedrock types. Finally, in the La Sal Mountains, the properties of water along the main stream in a rock-glacierized basin resemble the properties of water discharging from rock glaciers, and strongly contrast with the water in a catchment lacking rock glaciers. Collectively these results underscore the role of rock glaciers as an agent influencing the hydrochemistry of water in high-elevation stream systems. 
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  4. Abstract

    Rock glaciers are common in alpine landscapes, but their evolution over time and their significance as agents of debris transport are not well‐understood. Here, we assess the movement of an ice‐cemented rock glacier over a range of timescales using GPS surveying, satellite‐based radar, and cosmogenic10Be surface‐exposure dating. GPS and InSAR measurements indicate that the rock glacier moved at an average rate of ∼10 cm yr−1in recent years. Sampled boulders on the rock glacier have cosmogenic surface‐exposure ages from 1.2 to 10 ka, indicating that they have been exposed since the beginning of the Holocene. Exposure ages increase linearly with distance downslope, suggesting a slower long‐term mean surface velocity of 3 ± 0.3 cm yr−1. Our findings suggest that the behavior of this rock glacier may be dominated by episodes of dormancy punctuated by intervals of relatively rapid movement over both short and long timescales. Our findings also show that the volume of the rock glacier corresponds to ∼10 m of material stripped from the headwall during the Holocene. These are the first cosmogenic surface‐exposure ages to constrain movement of a North American rock glacier, and together with the GPS and satellite radar measurements, they reveal that rock glaciers are effective geomorphic agents with dynamic multi‐millennial histories.

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  5. Abstract. Water draining from rock glaciers in the Uinta Mountains of Utah(USA) was analyzed and compared with samples of groundwater and water fromthe primary stream in a representative 5000 ha drainage. Rock glacier water resembles snowmelt in the early summer but evolves to higher values of d-excess and greatly elevated Ca and Mg content as the melt season progresses. This pattern is consistent with models describing a transition from snowmelt to melting of seasonal ice to melting of perennial ice in the rock glacier interior in late summer and fall. Water derived from this internal ice appears to have been the source of ∼25 % of the streamflow in this study area during September of 2021. This result emphasizes the significant role that rock glaciers can play in the hydrology of high-elevation watersheds, particularly in summers following a winter with below-average snowpack. 
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  6. Abstract. Rock glaciers are a prominent component of many alpine landscapes andconstitute a significant water resource in some arid mountainenvironments. Here, we employ satellite-based interferometric syntheticaperture radar (InSAR) between 2016 and 2019 to identify and monitor activeand transitional rock glaciers in the Uinta Mountains (Utah, USA), an area of∼3000 km2. We used mean velocity maps to generate aninventory for the Uinta Mountains containing 205 active and transitional rockglaciers. These rock glaciers are 11.9 ha in area on average andlocated at a mean elevation of 3308 m, where mean annual airtemperature is −0.25 ∘C. The mean downslope velocity for theinventory is 1.94 cm yr−1, but individual rock glaciers have velocities ranging from0.35 to 6.04 cm yr−1. To search for relationships with climaticdrivers, we investigated the time-dependent motion of three rock glaciers. Wefound that rock glacier motion has a significant seasonal component, withrates that are more than 5 times faster during the late summer compared to therest of the year. Rock glacier velocities also appear to be correlated withthe snow water equivalent of the previous winter's snowpack. Our resultsdemonstrate the ability to use satellite InSAR to monitor rock glaciers overlarge areas and provide insight into the environmental factors that controltheir kinematics. 
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  7. Prominent lunette dunes 500e800 m long, 50e80 m wide, and up to 5 m tall are present on the floor of the Independence Valley in northeast Nevada, USA. These dunes border the downwind margins of circular playas at the end of a drainage descending from the East Humboldt Mountains, which terminates in an ephemeral water body named Little Lake. Gastropod shells from the Little Lake playa yield radiocarbon ages of ~400 cal yr BP, after correction for a hard-water effect. A similar age was obtained for shells from the crest of one of the lunettes. Deeper sediment in this lunette yielded shell ages clustering around 600 cal yr BP. This pattern suggests two intervals of relatively persistent water at Little Lake, both of which ended with lake desiccation and deflation of sediment and shells to the adjacent lunette. Shells from the crest of another lunette yielded radiocarbon ages between 3800 and 1750 cal yr BP. This dune, therefore, is considerably older and accumulated over a much longer stretch of time. Using the Global Surface Water Explorer, years between 1984 and 2018 were identified in which Little Lake contained water in most of the available summer imagery. These years form three clusters: 1984e1987, 1997e2000, and 2017e2018. Snow water equivalent (SWE) is greater in the mountains, snow makes up a greater percent of total annual precipitation, and Palmer Drought Severity Index is more positive in this region, in years when water is present in Little Lake compared with those in which the lake remains dry. Values of the PDO are also higher in years when Little Lake holds water. Although the hydrology of Little Lake may be influenced to an unknown degree by upstream water diversions, this overall pattern implies that the lake and its associated lunettes are a sensitive recorder of late Holocene hydroclimate variability in the northern Great Basin. 
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  8. null (Ed.)