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|Title||The effect of topography, latitude, and lithology on rock glacier distribution in the Lemhi Range, central Idaho, USA|
|Publication Type||Journal Article|
|Year of Publication||2007|
|Authors||Johnson BG, Thackray GD, Van Kirk R|
Statistical analysis of rock glaciers in the Lemhi Range demonstrates that their development and preservation is controlled primarily by annual insolation and lithology. We inspected 171 alpine valleys in the Lemhi Range using optical remote sensing techniques, digital topographic analysis, and field examination. In those valleys, we identified 48 rock glaciers and examined them for lichen cover, evidence of ice presence, specific evidence of movement, and distinctive morphological features. In addition to recording the presence or absence of a rock glacier in each alpine valley, existing rock glaciers were classified according to their morphology. Factors such as topographic shading, lithology, relief, aspect, and elevation determine the development and preservation of rock glaciers. Analysis of these factors in the Lemhi Range shows that elevation > 2600 m, a north-facing aspect (300 60°), and < 2300 h of direct sunlight per year are necessary conditions for the existence of rock glaciers in any form. The majority of alpine valleys in the Lemhi Range meet these requirements. Thus, other parameters, including topographic shading and lithology, must determine occurrence of rock glaciers in the Lemhi Range. Multivariate statistical analysis of controlling parameters demonstrates that annual insolation and latitude influence rock glacier occurrence most strongly. Whereas duration of insolation is a logical controlling factor, latitude is more enigmatic. Additional statistical analysis indicates that the latitude factor is likely a reflection of lithologic changes with latitude along the range. Lithology may affect rock glacier distribution through its effects on hydrology or air ventilation. Moreover, statistical analysis shows that rock glacier occurrence correlates with protalus lobe occurrence, suggesting that protalus lobes play a role in the genesis of rock glaciers in the Lemhi Range. Separate analysis of the classification systems shows that each morphologic class, inferred to correlate with rock glacier activity, is statistically significant and distinguishable from other classes. In addition to the effect of insolation, statistical analysis of the classification system also shows that latitude influences distribution of existing rock glacier classes independent of lithology.