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Detailed geologic mapping of gorge surficial deposits was facilitated by a U. Geological Survey, airborne light detection and ranging (Li DAR)–derived, 1 m horizontal × 0.12 m vertical resolution digital elevation model, derivative hill shade and slope maps, submeter-resolution aerial photographs, and high-resolution photo panoramas of the canyon walls acquired at five sites on the gorge rims (e.g., Figs. These products allowed us to recognize previously undocumented subhorizontal planar or near-planar geomorphic surfaces that we then examined and mapped in detail.
Among these surfaces, fluvial terraces were distinguished on the basis of well-defined terrace tread and riser couplets and the presence of associated fluvially modified clasts.
Landslide deposits were differentiated on the basis of their spatial extent, morphology, and degree of coherence.
Recognition of canyon wall and rim bedrock units relied upon previously published mapping (Kelson et al., 2008; Bauer et al., 2015), augmented by Li DAR hill shades and the photo panoramas.
The Rio Grande is the axial river drainage of the Rio Grande rift (Fig.
Compared to incision rates for nearby river systems, rates along the Rio Grande are nearly twice as fast over both middle and late Pleistocene to Holocene timescales, suggesting a persistent driving force for incision that is unique to this river system.Firstly, the river valley along this reach is narrow and steep walled—in several places a gorge—and it hosts the largest knickpoint of the river’s longitudinal profile, located near the Red River fault zone (RRFZ) (Repasch et al., 2017; Fig. These morphologic features suggest that this part of the river is in disequilibrium and is actively responding to some form of recent perturbation (Pazzaglia et al., 1998; Whipple, 2001; Bierman and Montgomery, 2013).Secondly, the northern Rio Grande is proximal to several active rift-related structures, including basin-bounding normal faults, and is within a zone of long-wavelength dynamic uplift associated with rift-related asthenospheric upwelling (Moucha et al., 2008; Karlstrom et al., 2012).Due to its considerable length, proximity to active structures, and sensitivity to climatic fluctuations, among other factors, the geomorphology of the river changes dramatically along its length, from occupying deeply incised canyons in northern New Mexico to more broad and shallow floodplains farther south.Within the larger Rio Grande system, the Rio Grande in northern New Mexico is especially unique and enigmatic for a number of reasons.