Nature abounds with beautiful and striking landscapes, but a comprehensive understanding of their forms requires examples where detailed comparisons can be made between theory and experiment. Geothermal hot springs produce some of the most rapidly changing terrestrial landscapes, with reported travertine (calcium carbonate) growth rates as high as 5mm per day. Unlike most landscapes, the patterns of which are the result of erosion processes on timescales of millions of years, the hot-spring depositional landscapes exhibit a spectacular cascade of nested ponds and terraces, for which the origins and quantitative characterization have remained elusive. Here, we take advantage of this millionfold difference in geological timescale to present a novel combination of data from time-lapse photography, computer simulation and mathematical modelling that explains the emergence of the large-scale pond and terrace patterns, predicts and verifies the dynamics of their growth and shows that these patterns are scale invariant.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Physics and Astronomy(all)