Dating alluvial fan surfaces in owens valley, california, using weathering fractures in boulders

Mitch D'Arcy*, Duna C. Roda Boluda, Alexander C. Whittaker, Alfredo Carpineti

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


A wide range of sedimentological and geomorphological field research depends on the availability of accurate and detailed depositional age models. Although exposure dating techniques such as cosmogenic nuclide and luminescence dating are now widely available, they remain expensive and time-consuming, and this frequently limits the density of age constraints and the resolutions of age models for many study areas. We present a simple and effective, field-based approach for extending and correlating existing age models to un-dated surfaces. In Owens Valley, California, we make use of detailed beryllium-10 (10Be) chronologies reported for four different alluvial fan systems, to precisely calibrate the rate at which weathering fractures are enlarged in granitic surface boulders. We show that these fractures have widened at a time-integrated rate of 1.05±0.03mmka-1 for at least 140ka at this location, and this relationship can be represented by a linear regression that makes them ideal chronometers for surface dating. Our analysis offers a new approach to refining the uncertainties of both surface erosion rate and cosmogenic age estimates at this location. Ultimately, we integrate our observations to devise a robust age calibration for clast fracture widths in Owens Valley, and we demonstrate its application by estimating the ages of 27 additional local fan surfaces. We present an updated and extended stratigraphy for eight Sierra Nevada fan systems in total, with exceptional age control. This novel approach to dating sedimentary surfaces is inexpensive and easily applied in the field, and has the potential to significantly increase the temporal and spatial density of age constraints available for a particular study area.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)487-501
Number of pages15
JournalEarth Surface Processes and Landforms
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 30 Mar 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Alluvial fan
  • Dating
  • Erosion
  • Owens valley
  • Stratigraphy
  • Weathering


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