EGU22-3756, updated on 27 Mar 2022
EGU General Assembly 2022
© Author(s) 2022. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Large-scale drainage disequilibrium in central Australia

Gregory Ruetenik1, John Jansen1, Mike Sandiford2, and Robert Moucha3
Gregory Ruetenik et al.
  • 1Institute of Geophysics, Czech Academy of Sciences, Prague, Czechia (
  • 2School of Earth Science, University of Melbourne, Parkville, VIC, Australia
  • 3Department of Earth & Environmental Sciences, Syracuse University, Syracuse, NY, USA

It has been hypothesized that Australia is experiencing long-wavelength uplift and subsidence in response to intraplate stresses and/or dynamic topography (e.g. Beekman et al., 1997; Czarnota et al., 2013). In central Australia, intraplate stresses are of particular interest due to the presence of several enigmatically long-lived (500+ Myr) Bouguer anomalies of magnitude + 150 mgal. Additionally, a recent study by Jansen et al. (2022) showed that the Finke river, which drains away from a large gravity high, is actively responding to cyclic changes in uplift. Here, transient uplift and subsidence of up to ~150 m may be driven by the the flexural response to variable in-plane stresses in the presence of large loads embedded within the lithosphere.  The in-plane stress changes may be associated with shear at the base of the lithosphere and therefore inherently linked to plate velocity and mantle dynamics.
     Here, we explore mechanisms of uplift in central Australia and investigate their signatures within the geomorphic record through numerical modeling and χ analysis. We observe strong χ variations across drainage divides associated with gravity anomalies, which we link to episodic transitions from exorheic to endorheic drainage during periods of uplift and subsidence.  Landscape evolution models that incorporate flexural uplift in response to time-transient variations in horizontal stresses suggest that depositional patterns, spatial χ variations, and river profiles can be explained by this uplift mechanism.  In a more general sense, these results demonstrate that the cyclic loss and gain of drainage area during periods of endorheism and exorheism can result in drastic, sudden changes in χ which correspond to waxing and waning of basinal areas.

How to cite: Ruetenik, G., Jansen, J., Sandiford, M., and Moucha, R.: Large-scale drainage disequilibrium in central Australia, EGU General Assembly 2022, Vienna, Austria, 23–27 May 2022, EGU22-3756,, 2022.