Research

Uncovering Erosion Patterns

Long, parallel grooves called rillenkarren can form in limestone and gypsum.

Gypsum and limestone cliffs sometimes form patterns of long, parallel grooves known as rillenkarren. Recent research shows that these patterns form when a thin layer of water flows over a dissolvable surface. As the running water picks up solute, its concentration increases, causing changes in the local hydrodynamics. What begins as a small perturbation in an otherwise flat surface grows into a groove with walls that eventually rise out of the water layer. At that point, the growth mechanism shifts because the flow is restricted to channels in the rock. (Image credit: Ymaup/Wikimedia Commons; research credit: A. Guérin et al.; via APS Physics; submitted by Kam-Yung Soh)

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