Diagram from the paper
Cartoon showing the evolution of a desert escarpment where the area that is drier, but with more frequent storms, shows more evidence of erosion by water. Despite receiving a greater annual volume of rain, wetter escarpments do not receive the intense storms required to move the coarse sediment that fall from the escarpment. Credit: Shmilovitz et al. [2023], Figure 9
Editors’ Highlights are summaries of recent papers by AGU’s journal editors.
Source: Journal of Geophysical Research: Earth Surface

How our erosional systems respond to changes in the intensity and distribution of rainfall due to changing climate remains a significant question in geomorphology. Desert escarpments, which are long cliffs formed by tectonic activity, have a morphology that is sensitive to rare rainfall events.

Shmilovitz et al. [2023] seek to understand how different metrics of rainfall, such as the intensity, frequency, and average annual rainfall, affect the erosion of an escarpment in Israel where drier regions show greater evidence of erosion. They use a downscaled climate model to estimate the nature and distribution of rainfall along the escarpment. The authors demonstrate that their counter-intuitive observation could be explained by more intense storms occurring in the drier region. These storms generate greater overland flow that could transport the relatively coarse escarpment material. The results show the importance of climate variability in driving erosional processes in arid regions.

Citation: Shmilovitz, Y., Marra, F., Enzel, Y., Morin, E., Armon, M., Matmon, A., et al. (2023). The impact of extreme rainstorms on escarpment morphology in arid areas: insights from the central Negev Desert. Journal of Geophysical Research: Earth Surface, 128, e2023JF007093. https://doi.org/10.1029/2023JF007093

—T. C. Hales, Associate Editor, JGR: Earth Surface

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