Hillslope asymmetry maps reveal widespread, multi-scale organization



[1] Hillslope asymmetry is the condition in which oppositely-facing hillslopes within an area have differing average slope angles, and indicates aspect-related variability in hillslope evolution. As such, the presence, orientation and magnitude of asymmetry may be a useful diagnostic for understanding process dominance. We present a new method for quantifying and mapping the spatial distribution of hillslope asymmetry across large areas. Resulting maps for the American Cordillera of the Western Hemisphere and the western United States reveal that hillslope asymmetry is widespread, with distinct trends at continental to drainage scales. Spatial patterns of asymmetry correlate with latitude along the American Cordillera, mountain-range orientation for many ranges in the western United States, and elevation in the Idaho Batholith of the Northern Rocky Mountains. Spatial organization suggests that non-stochastic, process-driven controls cause these patterns. The hillslope asymmetry metric objectively captures previously-documented extents and frequencies of valley asymmetry for the Gabilan Mesa of the central California Coast Range. Broad-scale maps of hillslope asymmetry are of interest to a wide range of disciplines, as spatial patterns may reflect the influence of tectonics, atmospheric circulation, topoclimate, geomorphology, hydrology, soils and ecology on landscape evolution. These maps identify trends and regions of hillslope asymmetry, allow possible drivers to be spatially constrained, and facilitate the extrapolation of site-specific results to broader regions.