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Extensive Boulder Erosion Resulting from a Range Fire on the Type-Pinedale Moraines, Fremont Lake, Wyoming

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  20 January 2017

Susan G. Zimmerman
Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, Lehigh University, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania 18015
Edward B. Evenson
Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, Lehigh University, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania 18015
John C. Gosse
Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, Lehigh University, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania 18015
Charles P. Erskine
Mobile Research Development Corporation, Princeton, New Jersey 08544


In July 1988, the FlatFish Range Fire burned over the type-Pinedale moraines at Fremont Lake, Wyoming, and caused extensive exfoliation of exposed boulder surfaces. The mass of exfoliated material from 130 of 1030 boulders investigated was measured and recorded with information concerning factors that could influence the extent of fire-induced exfoliation. The range in thickness of material removed from 98 randomly selected boulders within the burn area (averaged over the entire exposed boulder surface area) is 6.1 to < 0.1 mm. The mean thickness loss for all 98 boulders is 0.9 mm/fire and the expected loss from individual boulders (median) is 0.4 mm/fire. At the 95% confidence level there is no significant relationship between the degree of exfoliation and boulder size, lithology, grain size, proximity to vegetation, or vegetation density. The expected fire-induced boulder surface erosion rates range from 5.9 to 0.3 x 10-3 mm/yr on boulders in sagebrush rangeland where fire recurrence intervals are typically every 20 to 400 yr. Fire-induced exfoliation may account for differences in boulder size and abundance on Pinedale and Bull Lake moraines. Surface dating methods using varnish or cosmogenic nuclides may yield exposure ages that are too young if the consequences of range fires are not considered when sampling boulder surfaces that are within about 2 m above ground level.

Research Article
University of Washington

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