The Caltech Surface Processes Group seeks to understand the evolution of landscapes and sedimentary deposits on Earth and other planets through the mechanics of erosion, sediment transport and deposition. Earth surface dynamics are multiscale with important processes ranging from sand transport by turbulence to feedbacks between mountain building and erosion. We attempt to bridge these scales using a range of tools including field measurements and remote sensing of active processes, topographic analysis and dating to constrain landform kinematics, and flume experiments, numerical modeling and theory. In addition to developing and testing new theories for landscape mechanics, we apply these models to ancient landforms and sedimentary deposits on Earth and other planets to extract quantitative information about paleo-environmental history. Our work has applications ranging from river restoration and debris-flow hazards, to analyzing petroleum reservoirs in ancient sedimentary deposits, extracting paleo-climate information from landscape topography, and reconstructing flood discharges on the surface of Mars.
Active research questions include: Will river deltas and coastal landscapes drown due to sea level rise? How will arctic rivers respond to permafrost melting? Why do debris flows occur after wildfire? When and where did water flow across the surface of Mars?
Geomorphology and Sedimentology thrive at Caltech due to core faculty pursuing a wide range of topics including planetary surface processes, sedimentology, cosmogenic dating, remote sensing, and tectonics. Please see the GPS Earth Surface Processes and Sedimentology website for a list of relevant Caltech faculty and their interests.