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Project Introduction C3 – Hillslope Processes

While hillslopes generally represent areas of predominant denudation and constitute the transition and trajectory to floodplains, in dry and (hyper-)arid environments hillslope processes are known to be very slow or even stagnant. However, there is still a lot to explore: The underlying process mechanisms under the absence of water are poorly understood, and process rates are essentially unknown. Subproject C3 thus focuses on the identification, characterization, and quantification of past and present hillslope processes and their thresholds in the (hyper-) arid parts of the Atacama Desert. Our research is based on artificial irrigation experiments, different monitoring techniques including UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles) and TLS (Terrestrial Laser Scanning) as well as geomorphological, stratigraphical, geochronological (OSL – Optically Stimulated Luminescence), sedimentological and geochemical investigations. Central aspects of our work include the geomorphological and sedimentological characterisation of different hillslopes, understanding the evolution of various slope forms, and deciphering the continuity/discontinuity and the magnitude/frequency of the related processes.

“Working on hillslopes in the central Atacama is exciting, because it allows insights into processes that operate in a virtually waterless world, which is specific for only very few, if any, other terrestrial landscapes“
– Dr. Simon Matthias May

Within the framework of our research project, we aim at providing valuable insights into hillslope dynamics in hyper-arid environments, where studies are rare. We aim at activating and defining thresholds for hillslope processes and/or run-off by artificial irrigation experiments. In addition, due to the concurrence of long-term hyperaridity and high seismicity, combined with the Atacama-specific geological and topographical preconditions, seismic shaking seems to be a significant driver of hillslope activity and the generation of hillslope landforms in the central Atacama. This will be one focus of our investigations.

 

Publication

 

Contact

Dr. Simon Matthias May
Phone: +49 (0) 221 470-6042
E-Mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Prof. Dr. Olaf Bubenzer
Phone: +49 (0) 6221 54-4571
E-Mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

Zebra stripes and patterned ground structures at three different focus sites of C03. Our results emphasize the limited importance of rainfall for hillslope activity and landscape evolution in the hyperarid Atacama, why we focus on the formation processes of fog-triggered patterned ground structures and seismic shaking-related hillslope forms.

 

IMG 7334 1 350px IMG 7334 1 350px IMG 7334 1 350px
Photos: Simon Matthias May

 

 

In addition to the investigations at our hillslope focus sites, we witnessed exceptional floodplain activity and channel incision in dune-covered dry valleys of the Precordillera near Pica after the rainfall event in January 2019, which we observed and documented during our trip in March 2019.

 

Pressen Eulychnia TBoehnert TB011954 1 350px Photo: Simon Matthias May

 

Pressen Eulychnia TBoehnert TB011954 1 350pxPhoto: Simon Matthias May

 

 


Project



Contact

  Speaker:
Prof. Dr. Tibor J. Dunai
Institute of Geology and Mineralogy | University of Cologne
Zülpicher Str. 49b | 50674 Cologne
+49 (0)221 470-3229 | tdunai@uni-koeln.de
  Managing Director:
Christian Tiede
Institute of Geology and Mineralogy | University of Cologne

Zülpicher Str. 49b | 50674 Cologne
+49 (0)221 470-89833 | christian.tiede@uni-koeln.de
       
  Deputy Speaker:
Prof. Dr. Martin Melles
Institute of Geology and Mineralogy | University of Cologne

Zülpicher Str. 49a | 50674 Cologne
+49 (0)221 470-2262 | mmelles@uni-koeln.de
  Webmaster:
Tim Schlüter
Institute of Geography | University of Cologne

Otto-Fischer-Str. 4 | 50674 Cologne
+49 (0)221 470-3735 | webmaster@sfb1211.de

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