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Broader Impacts

Introduction and Rationale

Determining paleoelevation is a key problem facing earth science. This is in part because it bears on and links together tectonics, climate, and geomorphological issues, and also in part because the research community has now brought the problem to the verge of being tractable with the prospect for reliable solutions to specific paleoelevation histories. There are a number of very different techniques now being employed as proxy measures of paleoelevation for the purpose of determining the timing and magnitudes of plateau uplift. The number of conference sessions at GSA and AGU meetings, and numerous publications in a diverse literature have highlighted the fact that to date, the results of proxy measurements of paleoelevation depend strongly on the proxies and techniques you use. From a tectonic perspective, this is not particularly satisfying.

Consequently, we propose to launch a coordinated effort to apply all the tools at our disposal to measure the detailed epeirogenic history (be it uplift, subsidence, or combination) of specific highland regions. As a first step, we propose to convene a workshop to bring together research leaders in a variety of disciplines to present and compare approaches to paleoelevation measurement, and to develop a strategy for combining all possible approaches to determine more accurately than present possible, the epeirogenic history of a particular region (to be selected at the workshop on the basis of applicability of available approaches). This would bring together people who use each of the various approaches to come to present and discuss their techniques, assumptions, and data needs. From this, an outcome of the workshop would be to identify a specific place and time interval for which we will reconstruct uplift/subsidence using all methods simultaneously. The area will need to include the necessary materials or potential observations for as many of the various techniques as possible.

By examining each of the many approaches presently used to determine paleoelevation, and applying them to a common problem, we can highlight any differences between results produced from contrasting techniques and use these to invert the analyses and explore the assumptions and formulations of the techniques themselves. This could provide additional insights in a number of related disciplines. In essence, one of the most useful outcomes of such a comparison is not in finding similarities between approaches, but in using the differences to shed light on our understanding of the tools we use to determine the development of tectonically active systems.

The utility of the proposed paleoelevation technique comparison and consequent consolidation of a new research "community" has been demonstrated as an effective approach in other areas within the geosciences. In 1994 and 1995, a pair of workshops brought together a diverse group of ecosystem modelers of and climatologists and resulted in new insights in model intercomparison (Cramer et al., 1999). In 1999, a diverse group of scientists convened to better establish means of measurement and attribution of causal mechanisms of modern sea level changes (Sahagian, 2000). More recently, in 2002, a new research community formed following a workshop to compare volcanic conduit and eruption models (Sahagian and participants, in press). These and many other former efforts have proven the value of an integrated, multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary approach to solving outstanding geologic problems by comparison and assessment of contrasting techniques with a standardized application.


Send mail to dork.sahagian@lehigh.edu about the Workshop or to alex.proussevitch@unh.edu about this web site.
Last modified: 04/27/05