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Science. 2006 Jul 7;313(5783):87-9.

Hydrogen isotopes in Eocene river gravels and paleoelevation of the Sierra Nevada.

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Geological and Environmental Sciences, Stanford University, 450 Serra Mall, Building 320, Stanford, CA 94305, USA.


We determine paleoelevation of the Sierra Nevada, California, by tracking the effect of topography on precipitation, as recorded in hydrogen isotopes of kaolinite exposed in gold-bearing river deposits from the Eocene Yuba River. The data, compared with the modern isotopic composition of precipitation, show that about 40 to 50 million years ago the Sierra Nevada stood tall (>/=2200 meters), a result in conflict with proposed young surface uplift by tectonic and climatic forcing but consistent with the Sierra Nevada representing the edge of a pre-Eocene continental plateau.

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