Climate Change Causing Yosemite Rockfalls

Posted: Mar 29 2016, 8:15am CDT | by , Updated: Mar 29 2016, 7:49pm CDT, in News | Latest Science News

 
Climate Change Causing Yosemite Rockfalls
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  • Latest Research says Heat Levels are Responsible for Falling Rocks in Yosemite

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The latest research clearly says that heat levels are responsible for falling rocks in Yosemite National Park.

Every time the summertime came, researchers were left puzzled by the falling rocks that plagued Yosemite National Park. These are normally a common occurrence after seismic activity, snowfall and torrential showers.

However, the fact that these falling rocks were occurring during the summertime was an enigma. On a bright sunny afternoon with the blue sky overhead and wisps of clouds, you would get a rockfall which disturbed the scientists who could not make head or tail out of the situation.

Well, the mystery has been solved. Apparently, the causal factor is the heat. Machines were placed on the rocks. These rocks in turn had multiple layers like the layers of an onion.

What remained to be seen was how the heat and cold would interact with the layers. Data on the outermost layers was collected by the machines. Every five minutes the information was recorded for a total of three and a half years. Expectations for the rocks to move ran high. These rocks were changing in a big way.

The team of researchers expected a millimeter’s difference in the rate of expansion of the rock. This was equal to the thickness of a fingernail. Yet the rock moves by a full centimeter.

It expanded way beyond what was supposed by the scientists. This expansion occurred every single day which was an even bigger surprise.

As the temperatures cooled down, the expansion slowed down and ultimately the rock layers retreated back to their original levels. This tug-of-war between expansion and contraction year in and year out caused the rocks to fall especially during the summer months.

Last year alone there were 66 rockfalls. According to USAToday, a displacement of 25,000 tons of rocks occurred. This data comes courtesy of the National Park Service.

However, such a thing does not need a machine to corroborate its existence. It happens right before the eyes of the public and park staff. One of the researchers is a mountain climber and he placed his gear in crevices between rocks in between the time he spent scaling the peaks of Yosemite.

When he returned to the cache, he noticed that it was stuck between the spaces in the rocks. These rocks had expanded and then contracted thereby causing the difference due to which the gear got caught between them.

However, the rockfalls are not necessarily a danger to the tourists who frequent Yosemite National Park. For one thing, they are not an everyday occurrence and the only precaution that ought to be taken is to keep an eye out for them. A little awareness goes a long way.

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