Inland notches: lithological characteristics and climatic implications of subaerial cavernous landforms in Israel

Nurit Shtober-Zisu, Hani Amasha, Amos Frumkin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Inland notches, are elongated concave-shape indentations that develop on the carbonate rocky cliffs of mountainous zones, down to the desert fringe. These rock shelters form as a result of the interaction between specific petrologic characteristics and climatic controls, emphasizing the importance of environment upon rock decay. Inland notches are shaped due to slight differences (1–15%) in the porosity of the visor and cavity bed: the cavity bed is more porous, so more likely to erode by exfoliation and dissolution. Thus, the cavity bed retreats at a faster rate compared to the slower subaerial dissolution of the visor bed, until a critical point is reached where the visor collapses. In Israel, inland notches inhabit the same lithostratigraphic units as do large caves. The vast majority (71%) of inland notches are formed in hard, dense, and crystalline limestone deposited throughout the Turonian age. Another 27% are cut into the dolomitic sequence of the upper Albian and lower Cenomanian. The rest (2%) are dispersed in the various formations of the Cenomanian and Eocene eras. Notches are most common in semi-arid and in Mediterranean climates but mainly in areas with annual rainfall of between 400 mm and 850 mm. In more humid areas (> 900 mm/yr) notches are negligible or completely absent, due to the rapid rate of chemical dissolution of carbonate rocks. In the desert fringe (200–300 mm/yr), mechanical decay is accelerated and notches exhibit disintegration processes, visor collapse, and rock falls. In the desert area (< 200 mm/yr), salt decay replaces the chemical decay characteristic of inland notches, encouraging tafoni formation. In addition, notches form through fluvial activity or on account of greater petrophysical differences between consecutive beds; i.e. elongated cavities may form in soft rocks, shaded by harder visors or crusts.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1820-1832
Number of pages13
JournalEarth Surface Processes and Landforms
Issue number12
StatePublished - 30 Sep 2017

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was supported by the Israel Science Foundation (ISF-Grant No. 894/11). To Boaz Langford and all the many people who facilitated and assisted in this study the authors express their thanks. The authors are particularly grateful to Derek Ford, for fruitful discussions at an early stage of the research. The authors would like to thank the two anonymous reviewers for their detailed and constructive commen.

Publisher Copyright:
Copyright © 2017 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.


  • exfoliation
  • inland notch
  • rock decay
  • rock shelter
  • tafoni

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Earth-Surface Processes
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)


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