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    Author(s): Constance I Millar; Robert D. Westfall
    Date: 2019
    Source: Arctic, Antarctic, and Alpine Research. 51(1): 232-249
    Publication Series: Scientific Journal (JRNL)
    Station: Pacific Southwest Research Station
    PDF: Download Publication  (1.0 MB)


    We present the first comprehensive inventory and analysis of rock glaciers in the hydrographic Great Basin (GB), United States, documenting 842 features (mean 9.9 ha; range 0.1–201 ha) across thirty-two mountain ranges. These encompassed 8° latitude (from 36.5°N to 44.3°N) and 11° longitude (from −110.7°W to −121.4°W), and composed 83.1 km2, or 1.1 percent, of the cumulative area above the lowest rock glacier elevation. Forty-five percent of the features were mapped as intact (containing ice) and occurred across sixteen mountain ranges. Rock glaciers conservatively contained cumulative water volume of 0.8924 km3. We also mapped 237 persistent ice fields from thirteen GB ranges. Ice-field water equivalent was 0.0653 km3; rock glaciers contributed 93 percent of the total water volume (rock glacier:icefield ratio, 14:1). Rock glaciers occurred on northerly aspects at high elevations (mean, 3,196 m) and had a mean annual air temperature of 1.7°C (range, 1.3–3.3°C). Contributions of water from rock-glacier springs and groundwater have not been included in GB hydrologic assessments, nor have rock glaciers been evaluated for their roles in supporting cold-adapted aquatic fauna and promoting vegetation communities and habitat for alpine terrestrial species. Rock glaciers provide hydrologic and ecologic refugia previously unrecognized in the GB with respect to warming future climates.

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    Millar, Constance I.; Westfall, Robert D. 2019. Geographic, hydrological, and climatic significance of rock glaciers in the Great Basin, USA. Arctic, Antarctic, and Alpine Research. 51(1): 232-249.


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    Rock glaciers, glaciers, permanent ice fields, Great Basin, hydrology, climate refugia

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