In a unique academic precedent, a team of researchers led by the University of Bristol was able to create a mathematical model that could predict the rates of erosion of mountain ranges as a result of rainfall.

This research - published on the 16th of this month in the journal Science Advances - provided a mathematical model to assess how precipitation affects erosion rates in rugged terrain.

The study sheds light on the importance of calculating precipitation when evaluating patterns of tectonic activity depending on the topography, and it provides an essential step in addressing the rate of slip, so that tectonic faults that can arise as a result of erosion of plateaus can be controlled, and this model enhances our understanding of how peaks and valleys develop. Over millions of years.

Heavy rain digs gullies in rocky mountains, leading to mountain erosion and erosion (Aditya Pal - Wikimedia Commons)

The story of a grain of sand

It is known that rivers that are formed by heavy rains dig gullies in rocky mountains;

Which leads to the erosion of the mountains and erosion with time.

In its study, the team examined the central and eastern Himalayas in Bhutan and Nepal to study erosion rates.

The researchers depended on the study of rare cosmic atoms present inside the sand grains extracted from the rock samples there, as well as the rate of erosion of the rocks of the studied area due to the flow of rivers over them.

The concept that the researchers adopted as a basis for their study can be summarized as follows: When a cosmic particle from outer space collides with the Earth, there is a possibility that it collides with sand grains on the slopes of hills.

Researchers discuss the effects of rainfall on land use management, infrastructure maintenance, and risks in the Himalayas (John Robert McPherson - Wikimedia Commons)

Thus, some of the atoms within those sand grains can be transformed into rare elements, which in turn move with the sand grains "by heavy rains and erosion factors" to drift with the rivers.

By counting the number of rare atoms in these grains of sand, it is possible to know the history of the events that have passed on the mountain plateaus, which ultimately helps in knowing how quickly the landscape has eroded.

Hence, the researchers compared rates of erosion across the mountain range with differences in river steepness and precipitation, making use of mathematical statistical analysis techniques and numerical models.

The team studied the central and eastern Himalayas in Bhutan and Nepal to study erosion rates (Pixabay)

Lifestyle risks

On the other hand, the researchers discussed the effects of heavy rains on land use management, infrastructure maintenance and risks in the Himalayas.

Where high rates of erosion there is a great danger;

As it can significantly increase sedimentation behind dams, which puts important hydropower projects at risk.

The results of this study also indicate that more precipitation can cause collapse of hill slopes, increasing the risk of debris erosion or landslides;

Which creates a great threat to life there.

As is the case in the Himalayas, the model developed in this study can be used to assess risks affecting the hundreds of millions of people who live in the foothills of these mountains.

The researchers believe that this developed model opens new horizons to study the mutual influence between rivers resulting from heavy rainfall and volcanoes, by making use of the advanced technologies available to them to measure erosion rates and rock properties.