Quantification of Landscape Evolution Processes with Seismic Refraction Imaging, Boulder Creek Watershed, Colorado

Quantification of Landscape Evolution Processes with Seismic Refraction Imaging, Boulder Creek Watershed, Colorado Four SSR transects crossing the Gordon Gulch catchment. North-facing slopes show consistently deeper low velocities (< 2500 m/s) and likely describe deeper weathering fronts compared to the profiles on the south-facing slope.
We use minimally invasive shallow geophysical techniques to image the structure of the critical zone from surface to bed- rock (0-25 m) throughout two small drainages within the Boulder Creek Critical Zone Observatory (BcCZO). Shallow seismic refraction (SSR) reveals the physical characteristics of the shallow subsurface. Results of the SSR surveys provide a pseudo-3D network of critical zone compressional wave velocity (Vp) structure within each catchment.
</p><p>The evolution of each catchment within the BcCZO contain signals of both erosion and weathering dependent upon the large-scale geomorphic processes down to the microbial weathering of mineral grains. The geophysical approach describes the arena for the small-scale processes while also providing a quantitative description of the critical zone structure at an instant in time. This study encompasses two catchments, Betasso and Gordon Gulch, with connected recent and continuing geomorphic processes: fluvial rejuvenation and long-term quiescent erosion, respectively.
</p><p>Geophysical results show crystalline bedrock Vp was greater than 3500 m/s, unconsolidated material Vp was generally less than 700 m/s and various gradients of weathered bedrock and consolidated material ranged from 700-3500 m/s if present. Fresh bedrock values in Betasso were imaged 12.1±2.8 m below the ground surface. Moderately weathered bedrock (Vp > 2000 m/s) was imaged at 6.0±2.4 m depth. Weathered rock and consolidated materials were imaged at 3.4±1.8 m depth. Unconsolidated materials were generally thinner than the sensitivity of our line setup at 0.9±0.8 m thick. In Gordon Gulch fresh bedrock values were imaged 11.7±3.1 m below the ground surface, moderately weathered bedrock at 5.8±2.7 m depth, and weathered rock and consolidated materials at 3.2±1.9 m depth. Again, unconsolidated materials were generally thinner than the sensitivity of our line setup at 0.9±0.7 m thick.
</p><p>Significant topography and irregular bedrock surfaces contribute additional complexity to the critical zone architecture in each catchment. Aspect driven differences in the subsurface within each catchment overprints the broader geomorphic signals. SSR subsurface structure models will guide future investigations of critical zone processes from landscape to hydrologic modeling and assist in expanding point measurements of physical, chemical, and biological processes to the catchment scale.
</p><p>Acknowledgements: I appreciate working as a research assistant as part of the Boulder Creek Critical Zone Observatory (BcCZO) funded by NSF grant NSF-EAR 0724960. I acknowledge the Mentorship Program of the University of Colorado's Department of Geological Sciences and the BcCZO in funding my field assistants. Also, I thank Austin Andrus for taking time out of working on his own related IRIS project to assist me with my fieldwork. I appreciate IRIS Passcal for loaning Geometrics Geode seismic equipment and field computers with important analysis software.</p>


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