Weathering trends in fine debris beneath a snow patch, niwot ridge, front range, colorado

Colin E. Thorn, John C. Dixon, Robert G. Darmody, J. M. Rissing

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Seven soil pits dug in a downhill sequence beneath Martinelli snow patch, Niwot Ridge, Front Range, Colorado, reveal that soils are coarse-grained with only limited evidence of silt translocation. Clay mineralogy within the pits exhibits a widespread and distinct change at a depth of ∼15–20 cm. The most common characteristic of this change is a distinct increase in vermiculite in the lower layer, usually accompanied by a decrease in kaolinite and/or smectite. This pattern is interpreted to reflect decreased weathering intensity with depth. Microenvironments beneath the snow patch which exhibit high chemical weathering rates on coarse surficial debris also appear to experience high rates of clay production relative to referenced dry alpine sites, with specific clay mineralogies varying in a fashion commonly found in humid temperate environments. Data generated in this study appear to provide site-specific support for the regionally-developed Synthetic Alpine Slope Model. Spatial variations in eolian additions and meltwater produce complex patterns in chemical weathering of fines beneath large snow patches, although the nature of clay-mineral change is typical of humid, temperate, mid-latitude environments.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)307-321
Number of pages15
JournalPhysical Geography
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1989


  • Alpine environments
  • Chemical weathering
  • Clay mineralogy
  • Synthetic Alpine Slope Model

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Science(all)
  • Atmospheric Science
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences(all)


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