Raindrop Power

Snowed mountain

Ain’t no mountain high enough!

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science.

We’ve all heard that catchy song! But..can mountains be raised, valleys lowered, and rivers widened?

Rain may have the power to do all! But how? Byron Adams from the University of Bristol and collaborators looked to the climate and landscape.

Where? In the Himalayas! They measured how fast the rivers wore down the rocks underneath. They also collected the data on local rainfall and the incline of riversides on million-year time scales. Does erosion by rainfall influence landscape?

Yes! High rainfall rates coincide with how fast the rock is raised up in the earth. When the rain erodes the landscape fast, the rock is “sucked up” from the earth, and the mountain becomes higher! The scientists developed their findings into a model to predict future landscapes.

This knowledge helps protect us from climate and landscape hazards. For example, we could predict whether rainfall could cause erosion that leads to landslides.

When it rains, it pours. . . out our planet’s future!

Adams, B. A., Whipple, K. X., Forte, A. M., Heimsath, A. M., & Hodges, K. V. (2020). Climate controls on erosion in tectonically active landscapes. Science advances, 6(42), eaaz3166.