Imperial College London

Dr Alex Whittaker

Faculty of EngineeringDepartment of Earth Science & Engineering

Senior Lecturer
 
 
 
//

Contact

 

+44 (0)20 7594 7491a.whittaker Website

 
 
//

Location

 

3.51Royal School of MinesSouth Kensington Campus

//

Summary

 

Publications

Publication Type
Year
to

81 results found

Pizzi M, Whittaker AC, Lonergan L, Mayall M, Mitchell WHet al., 2021, New statistical quantification of the impact of active deformation on the distribution of submarine channels, GEOLOGY, Vol: 49, Pages: 926-930, ISSN: 0091-7613

Journal article

Kent E, Whittaker AC, Boulton SJ, Alcicek MCet al., 2021, Quantifying the competing influences of lithology and throw rate on bedrock river incision, GEOLOGICAL SOCIETY OF AMERICA BULLETIN, Vol: 133, Pages: 1649-1664, ISSN: 0016-7606

Journal article

Mitchell WH, Whittaker AC, Mayall M, Lonergan Let al., 2021, New models for submarine channel deposits on structurally complex slopes: Examples from the Niger delta system, Marine and Petroleum Geology, Vol: 129, Pages: 1-22, ISSN: 0264-8172

Submarine channel complexes are often described as having a two-phase stratigraphic evolution where an initial phase of migration is followed by aggradation, generating a ‘hockey-stick shaped’ channel trajectory. However, the role of tectonic forcing in modifying time-integrated sedimentary architectures remains poorly understood. Here, we evaluate how tectonically driven changes in slope modify the evolution—both in terms of morphology and stratigraphic architecture—of submarine channels across a range of spatial scales from the fundamental architectural unit, a channel element, to the scale of a channel complex set, using examples from the Niger Delta system. From a 3D, time-migrated seismic reflection volume, we use amplitude extractions, frequency decomposition and RGB blending to determine channel stratigraphic architectures. These observations are used systematically to evaluate the development of cross-sectional and planform architectures as the channel systems interact with a range of active and pre-existing structural bathymetry. Our results indicate that while a channel complex's stratigraphic architecture may be captured by a two-phase evolution on unstructured slopes, this model fails on structurally complex slopes. Unstructured slope channel complexes display a repeated arrangement of migration dominating the early stratigraphic record and subsequent aggradation. The late aggradational phase signals a decrease in the rate of growth in channel complex width and the rate of change in sinuosity relative to aggradation throughout the complex's development. However, tectonically driven changes in sinuosity and the relative rates of channel migration and aggradation modify complex development significantly. We identify three end-member styles of channel-structure interaction, determined by the timing of bathymetry development and its associated style: (1) pre-channel structural bathymetry; (2) coeval positive relief, and (3) coeval neg

Journal article

Lyster SJ, Whittaker AC, Hampson GJ, Hajek EA, Allison PA, Lathrop BAet al., 2021, Reconstructing the morphologies and hydrodynamics of ancient rivers from source to sink: Cretaceous Western Interior Basin, Utah, USA, Sedimentology, ISSN: 0037-0746

Quantitative reconstruction of palaeohydrology from fluvial stratigraphy provides sophisticated insights into the response, and relative impact, of tectonic and climatic drivers on ancient fluvial landscapes. Here, field measurements and a suite of quantitative approaches are used to develop a four-dimensional (space and time) reconstruction of palaeohydrology in Late Cretaceous palaeorivers of central Utah, USA – these rivers drained the Sevier mountains to the Western Interior Seaway. Field data include grain-size and cross-set measurements and span five parallel fluvial systems, two of which include up-dip to down-dip transects, across seven stratigraphic intervals through the Blackhawk Formation, Castlegate Sandstone and Price River Formation. Reconstructed palaeohydrological parameters include fluvial morphologies (flow depths, palaeoslopes, palaeorelief and planform morphologies) and various hydrodynamic properties (flow velocities, water discharges and sediment transport modes). Results suggest that fluvial morphologies were similar in space and time; median flow depths spanned 2 to 4 m with marginally greater flow depths in southerly systems. Meanwhile palaeoslopes spanned 10−3 to 10−4, decreasing downstream by an order of magnitude. The most prominent spatio-temporal change is an up to four-fold increase in palaeoslope at the Blackhawk–Castlegate transition; associated alluvial palaeorelief is tens of metres during Blackhawk deposition and >100 m during Castlegate Sandstone deposition. This study observed no change in unit water discharges at the Blackhawk–Castlegate transition, which argues against a climatically driven increase in palaeoslope and channel steepness. These findings instead point to a tectonically driven palaeoslope increase, although one limitation in this study is uncertainty in palaeochannel widths, which directly influences total water discharges. These reconstructions complement and expand on extensive p

Journal article

Scheingross JS, Limaye AB, McCoy SW, Whittaker ACet al., 2021, The shaping of erosional landscapes by internal dynamics (vol 1, pg 661, 2020), NATURE REVIEWS EARTH & ENVIRONMENT, Vol: 2, Pages: 375-375

Journal article

QuyeSawyer J, Whittaker AC, Roberts GG, Rood DHet al., 2021, Fault throw and regional uplift histories from drainage analysis: evolution of southern Italy, Tectonics, Vol: 40, Pages: 1-26, ISSN: 0278-7407

Landscapes can record elevation changes caused by multiple tectonic processes. Here, we show how coeval histories of spatially coincident normal faulting and regional uplift can be deconvolved from river networks. We focus on Calabria, a tectonically active region incised by rivers containing knickpoints and knickzones. Marine fauna indicate that Calabria has been uplifted by >1 km since ∼0.8–1.2 Ma, which we used to calibrate parameters in a stream power erosional model. To deconvolve the local and regional uplift contributions to topography, we performed a spatiotemporal inversion of 994 fluvial longitudinal profiles. Uplift rates from fluvial inversion replicate the spatial trend of rates derived from dated Mid-Late Pleistocene marine terraces, and the magnitude of predicted uplift rates matches the majority of marine terrace uplift rates. We used the predicted uplift history to analyze long-term fault throw, and combined throw estimates with ratios of footwall uplift to hanging wall subsidence to isolate the nonfault related contribution to uplift. Increases in fault throw rate—which may suggest fault linkage and growth—have been identified on two major faults from fluvial inverse modeling, and total fault throw is consistent with independent estimates. The temporal evolution of nonfault related regional uplift is similar at three locations. Our results may be consistent with toroidal mantle flow generating uplift, perhaps if faulting reduces the strength of the overriding plate. In conclusion, fluvial inverse modeling can be an effective technique to quantify fault array evolution and can deconvolve different sources of uplift that are superimposed in space and time.

Journal article

Harries RM, Gailleton B, Kirstein LA, Attal M, Whittaker AC, Mudd SMet al., 2021, Impact of climate on landscape form, sediment transfer and the sedimentary record, EARTH SURFACE PROCESSES AND LANDFORMS, Vol: 46, Pages: 990-1006, ISSN: 0197-9337

Journal article

Mitchell WH, Whittaker AC, Mayall M, Lonergan L, Pizzi Met al., 2021, Quantifying the relationship between structural deformation and the morphology of submarine channels on the Niger Delta continental slope, Basin Research, Vol: 33, Pages: 186-209, ISSN: 0950-091X

The processes and deposits of deep‐water submarine channels are known to be influenced by a wide variety of controlling factors, both allocyclic and autocyclic. However, unlike their fluvial counterparts whose dynamics are well‐studied, the factors that control the long‐term behaviour of submarine channels, particularly on slopes undergoing active deformation, remain poorly understood. We combine seismic techniques with concepts from landscape dynamics to investigate quantitatively how the growth of gravitational‐collapse structures at or near the seabed in the Niger Delta have influenced the morphology of submarine channels along their length from the shelf edge to their deep‐water counterpart. From a three dimensional (3D), time‐migrated seismic‐reflection volume, which extends over 120 km from the shelf edge to the base of slope, we mapped the present‐day geomorphic expression of two submarine channels and active structures at the seabed, and created a Digital Elevation Model (DEM). A second geomorphic surface and DEM raster—interpreted to closer approximate the most recent active channel geometries—were created through removing the thickness of hemipelagic drape across the study area. The DEM rasters were used to extract the longitudinal profiles of channel systems with seabed expression, and we evaluate the evolution of channel widths, depths and slopes at fixed intervals downslope as the channels interact with growing structures. Results show that the channel long profiles have a relatively linear form with localized steepening associated with seabed structures. We demonstrate that channel morphologies and their constituent architectural elements are sensitive to active seafloor deformation, and we use the geomorphic data to infer a likely distribution of bed shear stresses and flow velocities from the shelf edge to deep water. Our results give new insights into the erosional dynamics of submarine channels, allow us to quantify the extent to which

Journal article

Quye-Sawyer J, Whittaker AC, Roberts GG, 2020, Calibrating fluvial erosion laws and quantifying river response to faulting in Sardinia, Italy, Geomorphology, Vol: 370, Pages: 1-14, ISSN: 0169-555X

It is now widely accepted that rivers modify their erosion rates in response to variable rock uplift rates, resulting in changes in channel slope that propagate upstream through time. Therefore, present-day river morphology may contain a record of tectonic history. The simple stream power incision model can, in principle, be used to quantify past uplift rates over a variety of spatial and temporal scales. Nonetheless, the erosional model's exponents of area and slope (m and n respectively) and ‘bedrock erodibility’ (k) remain poorly constrained. In this paper, we will use a geologically and geomorphically well constrained Plio-Pleistocene volcanic landscape in central Sardinia, Italy, to calibrate the stream power erosion equation and to investigate the slip rate of faults that have been seismically quiescent in the historic past. By analysing digital elevation models, geological maps and Landsat imagery, we have identified the geomorphic expression of several volcanic features (eruption centres and basaltic lava flows) and three normal faults with 6 to 8 km fault traces within the outcrop. Downstream, river longitudinal profiles show a similar transient response to relative base level fall, probably as a result of relief inversion at the edge of the volcanic outcrop. From measurements of incision, local slope and upstream catchment area across eight different rivers, we calculate n ≈ 1, m = 0.50 ± 0.02 and, using a landscape age from literature of 2.7 Ma, bedrock erodibility k = 0.10 ± 0.04 m(1−2m) Myr−1. There are also knickpoints on rivers upstream of two normal faults, and we used numerical inverse modelling of the longitudinal profiles to predict the slip rate of these faults since 2.7 Ma. The results from the inverse model show that the erosional parameter values derived in this study can produce theoretical longitudinal profiles that closely resemble observed river profiles upstream of the faults. The lowest misfit

Journal article

Lyster SJ, Whittaker AC, Allison PA, Lunt DJ, Farnsworth Aet al., 2020, Predicting sediment discharges and erosion rates in deep time—examples from the late Cretaceous North American continent, Basin Research, Vol: 32, ISSN: 0950-091X

Depositional stratigraphy represents the only physical archive of palaeo‐sediment routing and this limits analysis of ancient source‐to‐sink systems in both space and time. Here, we use palaeo‐digital elevation models (palaeoDEMs; based on high‐resolution palaeogeographic reconstructions), HadCM3L general circulation model climate data and the BQART suspended sediment discharge model to demonstrate a predictive, forward approach to palaeo‐sediment routing system analysis. To exemplify our approach, we use palaeoDEMs and HadCM3L data to predict the configurations, geometries and climates of large continental catchments in the Cenomanian and Turonian North American continent. Then, we use BQART to estimate suspended sediment discharges and catchment‐averaged erosion rates and we map their spatial distributions. We validate our estimates with published geologic constraints from the Cenomanian Dunvegan Formation, Alberta, Canada, and the Turonian Ferron Sandstone, Utah, USA, and find that estimates are consistent or within a factor of two to three. We then evaluate the univariate and multivariate sensitivity of our estimates to a range of uncertainty margins on palaeogeographic and palaeoclimatic boundary conditions; large uncertainty margins (≤50%/±5°C) still recover estimates of suspended sediment discharge within an order of magnitude of published constraints. PalaeoDEMs are therefore suitable as a first‐order investigative tool in palaeo‐sediment routing system analysis and are particularly useful where stratigraphic records are incomplete. We highlight the potential of this approach to predict the global spatio‐temporal response of suspended sediment discharges and catchment‐averaged erosion rates to long‐period tectonic and climatic forcing in the geologic past.

Journal article

Scheingross JS, Limaye AB, McCoy SW, Whittaker ACet al., 2020, The shaping of erosional landscapes by internal dynamics, NATURE REVIEWS EARTH & ENVIRONMENT, Vol: 1, Pages: 661-676

Journal article

Watkins SE, Whittaker AC, Bell RE, Brooke SAS, Ganti V, Gawthorpe RL, McNeill LC, Nixon CWet al., 2020, Straight from the source's mouth: Controls on field‐constrained sediment export across the entire active Corinth Rift, central Greece, Basin Research, Vol: 32, Pages: 1600-1625, ISSN: 0950-091X

The volume and grain‐size of sediment supplied from catchments fundamentally control basin stratigraphy. Despite their importance, few studies have constrained sediment budgets and grain‐size exported into an active rift at the basin scale. Here, we used the Corinth Rift as a natural laboratory to quantify the controls on sediment export within an active rift. In the field, we measured the hydraulic geometries, surface grain‐sizes of channel bars and full‐weighted grain‐size distributions of river sediment at the mouths of 47 catchments draining the rift (constituting 83% of the areal extent). Results show that the sediment grain‐size increases westward along the southern coast of the Gulf of Corinth, with the coarse‐fraction grain‐sizes (84th percentile of weighted grain‐size distribution) ranging from approximately 19 to 91 mm. We find that the median and coarse‐fraction of the sieved grain‐size distribution are primarily controlled by bedrock lithology, with late Quaternary uplift rates exerting a secondary control. Our results indicate that grain‐size export is primarily controlled by the input grain‐size within the catchment and subsequent abrasion during fluvial transport, both quantities that are sensitive to catchment lithology. We also demonstrate that the median and coarse‐fraction of the grain‐size distribution are predominantly transported in bedload; however, typical sand‐grade particles are transported as suspended load at bankfull conditions, suggesting disparate source‐to‐sink transit timescales for sand and gravel. Finally, we derive both a full Holocene sediment budget and a grain‐size‐specific bedload discharged into the Gulf of Corinth using the grain‐size measurements and previously published estimates of sediment fluxes and volumes. Results show that the bedload sediment budget is primarily comprised (~79%) of pebble to cobble grade (0.475–16 cm). Our results suggest that the grain‐size of sediment export at the rift scale is particularly

Journal article

Lipp AG, Roberts GG, Whittaker AC, Gowing CJB, Fernandes VMet al., 2020, River sediment geochemistry as a conservative mixture of source regions: observations and predictions from the Cairngorms,, UK, Journal of Geophysical Research: Earth Surface, Vol: 125, ISSN: 2169-9011

The elemental composition of sediments in rivers is the product of physical and chemical erosion of rocks, which is then transported across drainage networks. A corollary is that fluvial sedimentary geochemistry can be used to understand geologic, climatic, and geomorphic processes. Here, we predict elemental compositions of river sediments using drainage networks extracted from digital elevation data and erosional models. The Geochemical Baseline Survey of the Environment was used to quantify substrate (i.e., source region) chemistry. Sedimentary compositions in rivers downstream are predicted by formally integrating eroding substrates with respect to distance downstream. Different erosional models, including the Stream Power model and uniform incision rates, are tested. Predictions are tested using a new suite of compositions obtained from fine grained (<150 μm) sediments at 67 sites along the Spey, Dee, Don, Deveron, and Tay rivers, Cairngorms, UK. Results show that sedimentary geochemistry can be predicted using simple models that include the topography of drainage networks and substrate compositions as input. The concentration of numerous elements including Magnesium, Rubidium, Uranium, Potassium, Calcium, Strontium, and Beryllium can be accurately predicted using this simple approach. Predictions are insensitive to the choice of erosional model, which we suggest is a consequence of broadly homogeneous rates of erosion throughout the study area. Principal component analysis of the river geochemical data suggests that the composition of most Cairngorms river sediments can be explained by mafic/felsic provenance and conservative mixing downstream. These results suggest that the elemental composition of river sediments can be accurately predicted using simple erosional models and digital elevation data.

Journal article

Brewer C, Hampson G, Whittaker A, Roberts G, Watkins Set al., 2020, Comparison of methods to estimate sediment flux in ancient sediment routing systems, Earth-Science Reviews, Vol: 207, ISSN: 0012-8252

The need to predict accurately the volume, timing and location of sediments that are transported from an erosional source region into a basin-depocentre sink is important for many aspects of pure and applied sedimentological research. In this study, the results of three widely used methods to estimate sediment flux in ancient sediment routing systems are compared, using rich input datasets from two systems (Eocene South Pyrenean Foreland Basin, Spain and late-Pleistocene-to-Holocene Gulf of Corinth Rift Basin, Greece) for which mapped, dated sediment volumes provide an independent reference value of sediment accumulation rates. The three methods are: (1) the empirical BQART model, which uses values of drainage basin area, relief, temperature, lithology and water discharge; (2) empirical scaling relationships between characteristic geomorphological parameters of sediment-routing-system segments; and (3) the “fulcrum” model, which uses the palaeohydrological parameters of trunk river channels to estimate downsystem sediment discharge. The BQART model and empirical geomorphological scaling relationships were originally developed using modern sediment routing systems, and have subsequently been applied to ancient systems. In contrast, the “fulcrum” model uses hydrological scaling relationships from modern systems, but was developed principally for application in ancient systems.Our comparative analysis quantifies the sensitivity of the three methods to their input parameters, and identifies the data required to make plausible estimates of sediment flux for ancient sediment routing systems. All three methods can generate estimates of sediment flux that are comparable with each other, and are accurate to at least one order of magnitude relative to independent reference values. The BQART model uses palaeoclimatic and palaeocatchment input data, which are accurate for sub-modern systems but may be highly uncertain in deep-time systems. Corresponding

Journal article

Pizzi M, Lonergan L, Whittaker AC, Mayall Met al., 2020, Growth of a thrust fault array in space and time: An example from the deep-water Niger delta, Journal of Structural Geology, Vol: 137, Pages: 1-20, ISSN: 0191-8141

The temporal and spatial evolution of thrust fault arrays is currently poorly understood, and marine fold and thrust belts at the toe of passive margin gravitational systems, imaged by commercial 3D seismic reflection datasets, afford a unique opportunity to investigate this problem in three dimensions. Using an extensive 3D seismic data set and age data, the total cumulative strain (shortening) and interval strain rates have been calculated for 11 thrust-related folds mapped in the toe-thrust region of the southern lobe of the Niger Delta. For the first time, the sequence of thrust nucleation, propagation and linkage through time at a scale of 10 s km both along and across strike is documented. Short thrust segments had nucleated throughout the entire study area by 15 Ma. They then grew largely by lateral growth and linkage, increasing the fault trace length and generating asymmetric strain-distance plots, for the first 50% of their history. Thereafter, growth continued by shortening, with minimal along strike increase in fault length. Changes in shortening-distance data between adjacent structures across strike suggest that the change in growth mode occurred once the thrusts had linked in 3D through the common underlying detachment. Over the entire thrust array the strain rate varies through time, starting slowly (<200 m/Ma), then increasing between 9.5 and 3.7 Ma (200–400 m/Ma) before slowing down in the last ∼ 4 Ma (<150 m/Ma). The variation in strain rate is attributed to a change in boundary conditions of the gravitational system. An increase in sediment supply to the delta occurred in the late Miocene-Pliocene, driving higher shortening rates in the toe area. A subsequent reduction in sediment supply in the last ∼4 Ma led to a reduction in deformation rate and the cessation of activity on a number of the thrusts. Predictions of the critical taper wedge model are used to explain the near-synchronous growth of the entire thrust array over th

Journal article

Hughes A, Bell RE, Mildon ZK, Rood DH, Whittaker AC, Rockwell TK, Levy Y, DeVecchio DE, Marshall ST, Nicholson Cet al., 2020, Three‐dimensional structure, ground rupture hazards, and static stress models for complex non‐planar thrust faults in the Ventura basin, southern California, Journal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth, Vol: 125, ISSN: 2169-9313

To investigate the subsurface geometry of a recently discovered, seismically‐active fault in the Ventura basin, southern California, USA, we present a series of cross sections and a new three‐dimensional fault model across the Southern San Cayetano fault (SSCF) based on integration of surface data with petroleum industry well‐log data. Additionally, the fault model for the SSCF, along with models of other regional faults extracted from the Southern California Earthquake Center three‐dimensional Community Fault Model, are incorporated in static Coulomb stress modeling to investigate static Coulomb stress transfer between thrust faults with complex geometry and to further our understanding of stress transfer in the Ventura basin. The results of the subsurface well investigation provide evidence for a low‐angle SSCF that dips ~15° north and connects with the western section of the San Cayetano fault around 1.5–3.5 km depth. We interpret the results of static Coulomb stress models to partly explain contrasting geomorphic expression between different sections of the San Cayetano fault and a potential mismatch in timings between large‐magnitude uplift events suggested by paleoseismic studies on the Pitas Point, Ventura, and San Cayetano faults. In addition to new insights into the structure and potential rupture hazard of a recently discovered active reverse fault in a highly populated area of southern California, this study provides a simple method to model static Coulomb stress transfer on complex geometry faults in fold and thrust belts.

Journal article

Geurts AH, Whittaker AC, Gawthorpe RL, Cowie PAet al., 2020, Transient landscape and stratigraphic responses to drainage integration in the actively extending central Italian Apennines, GEOMORPHOLOGY, Vol: 353, ISSN: 0169-555X

Journal article

Zondervan JR, Whittaker AC, Bell RE, Watkins SE, Brooke SAS, Hann MGet al., 2020, New constraints on bedrock erodibility and landscape response times upstream of an active fault, GEOMORPHOLOGY, Vol: 351, ISSN: 0169-555X

Journal article

Brooke SAS, DArcy M, Mason PJ, Whittaker ACet al., 2020, Rapid multispectral data sampling using Google Earth Engine, Computers & Geosciences, Vol: 135, Pages: 104366-104366, ISSN: 0098-3004

The advent of cloud-based GIS tools has enabled the rapid exploration and processing of geospatial datasets. The Google Earth Engine (GEE) platform provides a library of algorithms and a powerful application programming interface (API) to produce flexible cloud-based applications that leverage Google’s computing infrastructure for geospatial analysis. We introduce ”Spectral Point”, a new GUI tool developed in GEE that allows users to explore, process and extract multispectral data rapidly within a single browser window. The ability to access and measure spectral signals from surface deposits using the entire available Landsat and Sentinel 2 archive is of tremendous benefit to geomorphic research, removing the need to download and process terabytes worth of imagery. Spectral values from composite imagery collected in GEE that relate to changes in surface mineral composition agree with corresponding point values using conventional desktop Landsat processing. The ”Spectral Point” tool makes it fast and simple to extract quantitative, contrast-corrected brightness data from multispectral imagery compared conventional desktop-based approaches. At the same time, the user needs no experience developing code, proprietary third-party software or dedicated high-performance computing and only a modern web browser. The ”Spectral Point” tool has many potential applications in the remote study of Earth’s surface; for example, we explore a case study from the western United States that demonstrates how the tool can be used for mapping, geochronology, and estimating weathering rates for Quaternary landforms. With increasing numbers of satellites, we are now faced with a growing deluge of geospatial data. Cloud-based solutions to mapping, field reconnaissance and image processing will be increasingly necessary to handle this valuable but untapped satellite image resource. ”Spectral Point” is an example of a new generation o

Journal article

Harries RM, Kirstein LA, Whittaker AC, Attal M, Main Iet al., 2019, Impact of recycling and lateral sediment input on grain size fining trends—Implications for reconstructing tectonic and climate forcings in ancient sedimentary systems, Basin Research, Vol: 31, Pages: 866-891, ISSN: 0950-091X

Grain size trends in basin stratigraphy are thought to preserve a rich record of the climatic and tectonic controls on landscape evolution. Stratigraphic models assume that over geological timescales, the downstream profile of sediment deposition is in dynamic equilibrium with the spatial distribution of tectonic subsidence in the basin, sea level and the flux and calibre of sediment supplied from mountain catchments. Here, we demonstrate that this approach in modelling stratigraphic responses to environmental change is missing a key ingredient: the dynamic geomorphology of the sediment routing system. For three large alluvial fans in the Iglesia basin, Argentine Andes we measured the grain size of modern river sediment from fan apex to toe and characterise the spatial distribution of differential subsidence for each fan by constructing a 3D model of basin stratigraphy from seismic data. We find, using a self-similar grain size fining model, that the profile of grain size fining on all three fans cannot be reproduced given the subsidence profile measured and for any sediment supply scenario. However, by adapting the self-similar model, we demonstrate that the grain size trends on each fan can be effectively reproduced when sediment is not only sourced from a single catchment at the apex of the system, but also laterally, from tributary catchments and through fan surface recycling. Without constraint on the dynamic geomorphology of these large alluvial systems, signals of tectonic and climate forcing in grain size data are masked and would be indecipherable in the geological record. This has significant implications for our ability to make sensitive, quantitative reconstructions of external boundary conditions from the sedimentary record.

Journal article

Fernandes VM, Roberts GG, White N, Whittaker ACet al., 2019, Continental-scale landscape evolution: a history of North American topography, Journal of Geophysical Research: Earth Surface, Vol: 124, Pages: 2689-2722, ISSN: 2169-9011

The generation and evolution of continental topography are fundamental geologic and geomorphic concerns. In particular, the history of landscape development might contain useful information about the spatiotemporal evolution of deep Earth processes, such as mantle convection. A significant challenge is to generate observations and theoretical predictions of sufficient fidelity to enable landscape evolution to be constrained at scales of interest. Here, we combine substantial inventories of stratigraphic and geomorphic observations with inverse and forward modeling approaches to determine how the North American landscape evolved. First, stratigraphic markers are used to estimate postdepositional regional uplift. Present‐day elevations of these deposits demonstrate that >2 km of long‐wavelength surface uplift centered on the Colorado‐Rocky‐Mountain plateaus occurred in Cenozoic times. Second, to bridge the gaps between these measurements, an inverse modeling scheme is used to calculate the smoothest spatiotemporal pattern of rock uplift rate that yields the smallest misfit between 4,161 observed and calculated longitudinal river profiles. Our results suggest that Cenozoic regional uplift occurred in a series of stages, in agreement with independent stratigraphic observations. Finally, a landscape evolution model driven by this calculated rock uplift history is used to determine drainage patterns, denudation, and sedimentary flux from Late Cretaceous times until the present day. These patterns are broadly consistent with stratigraphic and thermochronologic observations. We conclude that a calibrated inverse modeling strategy can be used to reliably extract the temporal and spatial evolution of the North American landscape at geodynamically useful scales.

Journal article

Ganti V, Whittaker AC, Lamb MP, Fischer WWet al., 2019, Low-gradient, single-threaded rivers prior to greening of the continents, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, Vol: 116, Pages: 11652-11657, ISSN: 0027-8424

The Silurian-age rise of land plants is hypothesized to have caused a global revolution in the mechanics of rivers. In the absence of vegetation-controlled bank stabilization effects, pre-Silurian rivers are thought to be characterized by shallow, multithreaded flows, and steep river gradients. This hypothesis, however, is at odds with the pancontinental scale of early Neoproterozoic river systems that would have necessitated extraordinarily high mountains if such river gradients were commonplace at continental scale, which is inconsistent with constraints on lithospheric thickness. To reconcile these observations, we generated estimates of paleogradients and morphologies of pre-Silurian rivers using a well-developed quantitative framework based on the formation of river bars and dunes. We combined data from previous work with original field measurements of the scale, texture, and structure of fluvial deposits in Proterozoic-age Torridonian Group, Scotland-a type-example of pancontinental, prevegetation fluvial systems. Results showed that these rivers were low sloping (gradients 10-5 to 10-4), relatively deep (4 to 15 m), and had morphology similar to modern, lowland rivers. Our results provide mechanistic evidence for the abundance of low gradient, single-threaded rivers in the Proterozoic eon, at a time well before the evolution and radiation of land plants-despite the absence of muddy and vegetated floodplains. Single-threaded rivers with stable floodplains appear to have been a persistent feature of our planet despite singular changes in its terrestrial biota.

Journal article

Lonergan L, Pizzi M, Doughty-Jones G, Mayall M, Whittaker ACet al., 2019, Structural growth rate and impact on deep-water depositional systems in deep-water fold belts

Examples of slope channels being diverted/deflected by growth folds, salt walls or thrusts are found at the modern seabed and in the subsurface in deep-water fold and thrust belts. We have quantified the shortening rate of thrust-related folds, salt-cored anticlines and faulted salt-detachment folds in three areas (Gulf of Mexico, Lower Congo Basin and Niger Delta), with the aim of investigating whether there are any predictive relationships between structural parameters such as structural relief, growth rate versus sediment accumulation rate, and depositional patterns. Shortening rates in the Niger Delta and t the Gulf of Mexico are comparable. The maxima recorded for the West African salt strutures are lower. However we note that the Pleistocene to Recent channels in the Niger Delta, and the buried Miocene channels in West Africa, are diverted and deflected. by growth rates as low as 30-50 m/Ma. In general, during periods of higher growth, channels are forced to deflect or divert around growing structures. Channels that have established a route through a fold or salt wall can continue to exploit that route down slope as long as the turbidity flows continue to have enough erosive power to keep pace with the growth of the structure.

Conference paper

Lonergan L, Pizzi M, Doughty-Jones G, Mayall M, Whittaker ACet al., 2019, Structural growth rate and impact on deep-water depositional systems in deep-water fold belts

© 81st EAGE Conference and Exhibition 2019. All rights reserved. Examples of slope channels being diverted/deflected by growth folds, salt walls or thrusts are found at the modern seabed and in the subsurface in deep-water fold and thrust belts. We have quantified the shortening rate of thrust-related folds, salt-cored anticlines and faulted salt-detachment folds in three areas (Gulf of Mexico, Lower Congo Basin and Niger Delta), with the aim of investigating whether there are any predictive relationships between structural parameters such as structural relief, growth rate versus sediment accumulation rate, and depositional patterns. Shortening rates in the Niger Delta and t the Gulf of Mexico are comparable. The maxima recorded for the West African salt strutures are lower. However we note that the Pleistocene to Recent channels in the Niger Delta, and the buried Miocene channels in West Africa, are diverted and deflected. by growth rates as low as 30-50 m/Ma. In general, during periods of higher growth, channels are forced to deflect or divert around growing structures. Channels that have established a route through a fold or salt wall can continue to exploit that route down slope as long as the turbidity flows continue to have enough erosive power to keep pace with the growth of the structure.

Conference paper

Lonergan L, Pizzi M, Doughty-Jones G, Mayall M, Whittaker ACet al., 2019, Structural growth rate and impact on deep-water depositional systems in deep-water fold belts

© 81st EAGE Conference and Exhibition 2019. All rights reserved. Examples of slope channels being diverted/deflected by growth folds, salt walls or thrusts are found at the modern seabed and in the subsurface in deep-water fold and thrust belts. We have quantified the shortening rate of thrust-related folds, salt-cored anticlines and faulted salt-detachment folds in three areas (Gulf of Mexico, Lower Congo Basin and Niger Delta), with the aim of investigating whether there are any predictive relationships between structural parameters such as structural relief, growth rate versus sediment accumulation rate, and depositional patterns. Shortening rates in the Niger Delta and t the Gulf of Mexico are comparable. The maxima recorded for the West African salt strutures are lower. However we note that the Pleistocene to Recent channels in the Niger Delta, and the buried Miocene channels in West Africa, are diverted and deflected. by growth rates as low as 30-50 m/Ma. In general, during periods of higher growth, channels are forced to deflect or divert around growing structures. Channels that have established a route through a fold or salt wall can continue to exploit that route down slope as long as the turbidity flows continue to have enough erosive power to keep pace with the growth of the structure.

Conference paper

Roda-Boluda DC, D'Arcy M, Whittaker AC, Gheorghiu DM, Rodes Aet al., 2019, Be-10 erosion rates controlled by transient response to normal faulting through incision and landsliding, Earth and Planetary Science Letters, Vol: 507, Pages: 140-153, ISSN: 0012-821X

Quantifying erosion rates, and how they compare to rock uplift rates, is fundamental for understanding landscape response to tectonics and associated sediment fluxes from upland areas. The erosional response to uplift is well-represented by river incision and the associated landslide activity. However, characterising the relationship between these processes remains a major challenge in tectonically active areas, in some cases because landslides can preclude obtaining reliable erosion rates from cosmogenic radionuclide (CRN) concentrations. Here, we quantify the control of tectonics and its coupled geomorphic response on the erosion rates of catchments in southern Italy that are experiencing a transient response to normal faulting. We analyse in-situ 10Be concentrations for detrital sediment samples, collected along the strike of faults with excellent tectonic constraints and landslide inventories. We demonstrate that 10Be-derived erosion rates are controlled by fault throw rates and the extent of transient incision and associated landsliding in the catchments. We show that the low-relief sub-catchments above knickpoints erode at uniform background rates of ∼0.10 mm/yr, while downstream of knickpoints, erosion removes ∼50% of the rock uplifted by the faults, at rates of 0.10–0.64 mm/yr. Despite widespread landsliding, CRN samples provide relatively consistent and accurate erosion rates, most likely because landslides are frequent, small, and shallow, and represent the integrated record of landsliding over several seismic cycles. Consequently, we combine these validated 10Be erosion rates and data from a geomorphological landslide inventory in a published numerical model, to gain further insight into the long-term landslide rates and sediment mixing, highlighting the potential of CRN data to study landslide dynamics.

Journal article

Hughes A, Rood DH, Whittaker AC, Bell RE, Rockwell TK, Levy Y, Wilcken KM, Corbett LB, Bierman PR, DeVecchio DE, Marshall ST, Gurrola LD, Nicholson Cet al., 2018, Geomorphic evidence for the geometry and slip rate of a young, low-angle thrust fault: Implications for hazard assessment and fault interaction in complex tectonic environments, Earth and Planetary Science Letters, Vol: 504, Pages: 198-210, ISSN: 0012-821X

We present surface evidence and displacement rates for a young, active, low-angle (∼20°) reverse thrust fault in close proximity to major population centers in southern California (USA), the Southern San Cayetano fault (SSCF). Active faulting along the northern flank of the Santa Clara River Valley displaces young landforms, such as late Quaternary river terraces and alluvial fans. Geomorphic strain markers are examined using field mapping, high-resolution lidar topographic data, 10Be surface exposure dating, and subsurface well data to provide evidence for a young, active SSCF along the northern flank of the Santa Clara River Valley. Displacement rates for the SSCF are calculated over 103–104 yr timescales with maximum slip rates for the central SSCF of 1.9[Formula presented] mm yr−1 between ∼19–7 ka and minimum slip rates of 1.3[Formula presented] mm yr−1 since ∼7 ka. Uplift rates for the central SSCF have not varied significantly over the last ∼58 ka, with a maximum value of 1.7[Formula presented] mm yr−1 for the interval ∼58–19 ka, and a minimum value of 1.2±0.3 mm yr−1 since ∼7 ka. The SSCF is interpreted as a young, active structure with onset of activity at some time after ∼58 ka. The geometry for the SSCF presented here, with a ∼20° north dip in the subsurface, is the first interpretation of the SSCF based on geological field data. Our new interpretation is significantly different from the previously proposed model-derived geometry, which dips more steeply at 45–60° and intersects the surface in the middle of the Santa Clara River Valley. We suggest that the SSCF may rupture in tandem with the main San Cayetano fault. Additionally, the SSCF could potentially act as a rupture pathway between the Ventura and San Cayetano faults in large-magnitude, multi-fault earthquakes in southern California. However, given structural complexities, including significant changes

Journal article

Briant RM, Cohen KM, Cordier S, Demoulin AJAG, Macklin MG, Mather AE, Rixhon G, Veldkamp T, Wainwright J, Whittaker A, Wittmann Het al., 2018, Applying Pattern Oriented Sampling in current fieldwork practice to enable more effective model evaluation in fluvial landscape evolution research, Earth Surface Processes and Landforms, Vol: 43, Pages: 2964-2980, ISSN: 0197-9337

© 2018 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. Field geologists and geomorphologists are increasingly looking to numerical modelling to understand landscape change over time, particularly in river catchments. The application of landscape evolution models (LEMs) started with abstract research questions in synthetic landscapes. Now, however, studies using LEMs on real-world catchments are becoming increasingly common. This development has philosophical implications for model specification and evaluation using geological and geomorphological data, besides practical implications for fieldwork targets and strategy. The type of data produced to drive and constrain LEM simulations has very little in common with that used to calibrate and validate models operating over shorter timescales, making a new approach necessary. Here we argue that catchment fieldwork and LEM studies are best synchronized by complementing the Pattern Oriented Modelling (POM) approach of most fluvial LEMs with Pattern Oriented Sampling (POS) fieldwork approaches. POS can embrace a wide range of field data types, without overly increasing the burden of data collection. In our approach, both POM output and POS field data for a specific catchment are used to quantify key characteristics of a catchment. These are then compared to provide an evaluation of the performance of the model. Early identification of these key characteristics should be undertaken to drive focused POS data collection and POM model specification. Once models are evaluated using this POM/POS approach, conclusions drawn from LEM studies can be used with greater confidence to improve understanding of landscape change. © 2018 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

Journal article

Harries RM, Kirstein LA, Whittaker AC, Attal M, Peralta S, Brooke Set al., 2018, Evidence for self-similar bedload transport on Andean Alluvial Fans, Iglesia Basin, South Central Argentina, Journal of Geophysical Research: Earth Surface, Vol: 123, Pages: 2292-2315, ISSN: 2169-9011

Self‐similar downstream grain‐size fining trends in fluvial deposits are being increasingly used to simplify equilibrium sediment transport dynamics in numerical models. Their ability to collapse time‐averaged behavior of a depositional system into a simple mass balance framework makes them ideal for exploring the sensitivity of sediment routing systems to their climatic and tectonic boundary conditions. This is important if we want to better understand the sensitivity of landscapes to environmental change over timescales >102 years. However, the extent to which self‐similarity is detectable in the deposits of natural rivers is not fully constrained. In transport‐limited rivers, stored sediment can be remobilized or “recycled” and this behavior has been highlighted as a mechanism by which externally forced grain‐size fining trends are distorted. Here we evaluate evidence of self‐similarity in surface gravel‐size distributions on three geomorphically diverse alluvial fans in the Iglesia basin, south Central Argentine Andes. We find that size distributions are self‐similar, deviating from that condition only when significant variability occurs in the coarse tails of the distributions. Our analysis indicates a strong correlation between the degree of sediment recycling and the proportion of coarse clasts present on the bed surface. However, by fitting a relative mobility transfer function, we demonstrate that size‐selectivity alone can explain the bulk size distributions observed. This strengthens the application of self‐similar grain size fining models to solving problems of mass balance in a range of geomorphic settings, with an aim for reconstructing environmental boundary conditions from stratigraphy.

Journal article

D'Arcy M, Mason PJ, Roda-Boluda DC, Whittaker AC, Lewis JMT, Najorka Jet al., 2018, Alluvial fan surface ages recorded by Landsat-8 imagery in Owens Valley, California, Remote Sensing of Environment, Vol: 216, Pages: 401-414, ISSN: 0034-4257

Alluvial fans are important depositional landforms that offer valuable records of terrestrial sedimentation history if their surfaces can be mapped and dated accurately. Unfortunately, as this often depends on detailed field mapping and intensive absolute dating techniques, it can be a challenging, expensive and time-consuming exercise. In this study, we demonstrate that quantitative information about the ages of alluvial fan surfaces in Owens Valley, California, is recorded by Landsat-8 multispectral satellite imagery. We show that systematic changes in the wavelength-dependent brightness of fan surfaces occur gradually over a timescale of ~100 kyr in this semi-arid setting, and are highly correlated with known deposit ages. Using spectro-radiometry and X-ray diffraction analysis of sediment samples collected in the field, we interpret that surface reflectance evolves primarily in response to the in-situ production of secondary illite and iron oxide by weathering in this landscape. Furthermore, we demonstrate that first-order predictions of absolute fan surface age can be derived from multispectral imagery when an initial age calibration is available. These findings suggest that multispectral imagery, such as Landsat data, can be used (i) for preliminary mapping of alluvial fans prior to detailed field work and before choosing sampling sites for conventional dating techniques, and (ii) to extend age models to un-dated neighbouring surfaces with equivalent physical properties, once an age-brightness calibration has been established.

Journal article

This data is extracted from the Web of Science and reproduced under a licence from Thomson Reuters. You may not copy or re-distribute this data in whole or in part without the written consent of the Science business of Thomson Reuters.

Request URL: http://wlsprd.imperial.ac.uk:80/respub/WEB-INF/jsp/search-html.jsp Request URI: /respub/WEB-INF/jsp/search-html.jsp Query String: respub-action=search.html&id=00539114&limit=30&person=true