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The development of desert landscapes is influenced by the strength of storms.

Diagram from the paper

AGU’s journal editors provide summaries of recent papers in Editors’ Highlights.

Source: Journal of Geophysical Research: Earth Surface

The impact of shifting weather patterns on erosion processes is a key topic in the study of geomorphology. The shape of desert escarpments, which are tall cliffs created by geological movements, can be greatly affected by infrequent rainstorms.

In their research, Shmilovitz et al. [2023] aim to gain insight into how different measures of rainfall, such as its intensity, frequency, and average annual amount, impact the erosion of an escarpment in Israel. They utilized a downscaled climate model to estimate the pattern and distribution of precipitation along the escarpment. The study reveals that the counterintuitive occurrence of greater erosion in drier areas can be explained by more intense storms, which lead to increased overland flow that can transport larger sediment particles from the escarpment. These findings highlight the significance of climate variability in driving erosion 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.

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

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