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The Sierra Nevada is a tectonic uplift mountain range with a gradual gain in elevation on the west side and a steep escarpment on the east. Most of the mapped locations are east of the Sierran crest. The climate in the region is Mediterranean, with most of the precipitation in the winter months coming as snow at high elevations, but with some monsoonal precipitation in the summer, particularly in the southern end of the range. There is a very steep gradient in decreasing precipitation eastward from the Sierran crest as a result of rain-shadow orographic effects from the predominately eastward-moving Pacific frontal storms. PRISM-estimated (Daly et al. 1994) annual precipitation for the RIF locations ranged from 580 to 1880 mm; July precipitation from 5 to 33 mm. Mean annual maximum temperatures ranged from 1.8 to 15.2 oC, January from -5.7 to 6.2 oC, and July from 11 to 26.3 oC. Mean annual minima ranged from -8.1 to -0.4 oC, January from -15 to -7 oC, and July from 1.2 to 8.9 oC. The highest temperatures and lowest precipitation were largely at relict Pleistocene rock glaciers, which tended to be farthest east of the Sierran crest and lower in elevation. We mapped over 430 RIFs, based on field surveys and grouped them into six classes based on morphology and location. These categories constitute a greater range of frozen-ground features than are commonly described in rock-glacier surveys. Although granitic substrates dominate the Sierra Nevada, they do not in the eastern escarpment, so substrates in the RIF database are about equally divided between granitic and metamorphic. Ages of rock glaciers ranged from current (active) to relict (late Pleistocene). We interpreted the presence of outlet springs, basal lakes, suspended silt in outlet streams, and fringing phreatophytic vegetation, in addition to morphologic indications of current rock movement, as evidence for interstitial ice, either persistent or seasonal.
One comma-delimited ASCII file containing information for 430 rock-ice features is available.
Millar, C. I. and R. D. Westfall. 2009. Rock-Ice Feature Inventory for the Sierra Nevada, California, USA. Boulder, CO: National Snow and Ice Data Center. Digital media.
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|Data format||comma-delimited ASCII text file (.csv)|
|Spatial coverage and resolution||
Southernmost Latitude: 34.5°N
|Temporal coverage and resolution||One time measurements from field surveys 2004 to 2008|
|File size||36 KB|
|Parameter(s)||rock-ice features including location, location class, elevation, age, aspect, shape, size, and presence of water|
|Procedures for obtaining data||Data are available via FTP.|
Sierra Nevada Research Center
Pacific Southwest Research Station
USDA Forest Service
800 Buchanan St.
Albany, CA 94710
P.O. Box 245
Berkeley, CA 94701
NSIDC User Services
National Snow and Ice Data Center
CIRES, 449 UCB
University of Colorado
Boulder, CO 80309-0449 USA
phone: +1 303.492.6199
fax: +1 303.492.2468
form: Contact NSIDC User Services
Comma-delimited ASCII text file (.csv) with the following columns:
The area investigated covers the Sierra Nevada range from 34.5o to 38.8o N latitude and -118.2o to -119.9o W longitude. The lowest elevation in the study area is 2225 m asl and the highest, 3932 m asl. The figure below shows the locations of the features.
Details of the collection methods and analysis can be found in Millar and Westfall (2008)
Daly, C., Neilson, R.P., Phillips, D.L. 1994. A statistical-topographic model for mapping climatological precipitation over mountainous terrain. Journal of Applied Meteorology 33:140-158.
Millar, C.I. and R.D. Westfall. 2008. Rock glaciers and periglacial rock-ice features in the Sierra Nevada; Classification, distribution, and climate relationships. Quaternary International, 188: 90-104.
6 February 2009