Fairy chimney erosion rates on Cappadocia ignimbrites, Turkey: Insights from cosmogenic nuclides

Mehmet Akif Sarikaya, Attila Çiner*, Marek Zreda

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Citations (Scopus)


Cappadocia, in the Central Anatolian Plateau of Turkey, is famous for its unique landscape and unusual rock formations. The development of this landscape dates back to Late Miocene epoch (c. 10millionyears) when volcanoes spread pyroclastic deposits over an area of about 20,000km2. The volcanism continued for several millions of years and laid down thick and colorful ignimbrite layers. The evolution of the Cappadocian landscape starts with nearly-horizontal plateaus, which are then dissected, usually along cooling fractures, to form mushroom-like structures (hoodoos) locally known as "fairy chimneys". Different layers of ignimbrites have different resistance to erosion: softer layers (necks) are easier to erode compared to the harder ignimbrites (caps). When the chimneys are isolated, the caps play an important role in slowing further erosion of softer layers. When the caps finally drop or completely erode away, the soft necks of the chimneys are quickly destroyed. Here, for the first time, we have determined the bedrock erosion rates at the three evolution stages of fairy chimneys using the cosmogenic chlorine-36 (36Cl): the pre-chimney (plateaus) stage, the chimney stage and the post-chimney stage. The data show that the plateaus erode at a very low rate between 0.58±0.02cm/ky and 0.93±0.05cm/ky. When dissection of a plateau starts, the erosion rate increases to about 4.5±0.6cm/ky. The caps of chimneys have erosion rates between 3.21±0.36cm/ky and 3.39±0.36cm/ky. Once the chimneys disappear, erosion rates increase significantly to 28.0±9.9cm/ky.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)182-191
Number of pages10
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2015

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015 Elsevier B.V.


This study was supported by TÜBİTAK ( 107Y069 and 107Y333 ). Marek Zreda's work was supported by the National Science Foundation. Sampling was done with the permission to the Ministry of Culture and Tourism of Turkey. We thank to Kısmet Çiner, the manager of Kayadam Cave House in Ürgüp, and her personnel who kindly hosted us during our work in Cappadocia. Karoly Nemeth (Massey University, NZ) and an anonymous reviewer provided helpful comments that improved the manuscript.

FundersFunder number
TÜBİTAK107Y069, 107Y333
National Science Foundation


    • Bedrock erosion rates
    • Cappadocia
    • Cosmogenic Cl
    • Ignimbrites
    • Turkey
    • Volcanism


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