More than 10,000 nivation landforms occur in the higher mountain ranges of the western Great Basin. They range from small, subtle hollows with head scarps a few meters high and a few tens of meters long to broad, clearly defined terraces as much as 220 m wide bounded by bold, steeply sloping head scarps as much as 30 m high and 1600 m long. Distribution of these nivation hollows is strongly influenced by elevation, slope orientation, local relief, and substrate lithology. About 95% occur between 2200 and 3000 m elevation, and nearly 80% are situated on north-northwest-to east-northeast-facing slopes. They occur mainly in areas of moderately sloping terrain and moderate local relief, and they are preferentially developed on relatively incompetent substrates including terrigenous sedimentary deposits, volcanic and metavolcanic rocks of intermediate composition, and deeply weathered granitoid rocks. Nearly all of these nivation hollows are relict. They are most abundant near areas of late Pleistocene glaciation but rarely occur within such areas. Most are veneered with colluvium and are well vegetated, and many hollows in the Mono Basin area are veneered with volcanic ash at least 700 yr old. Distribution of nivation hollows suggests that (1) the full-glacial nivation threshold altitude (NTA) rose from north to south at 190 m per degree of latitude, subparallel to, and approximately 740 m lower than, the full-glacial equilibrium-line altitude (ELA) and about 1370 m lower than the estimated modern ELA; (2) the difference between the full-glacial and modern ELAs indicates an approximate 7??C full-glacial mean-annual-temperature depression throughout the Great Basin; and (3) the full-glacial mean annual temperature at the NTA is estimated to have been approximately 0?? to 1??C, assuming little change in accumulation-season precipitation. ?? 1984.
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Nivation landforms in the western Great Basin and their paleoclimatic significance