I was wondering what about the mean # of references for a (non-length restricted) journal article in geomorphology/Earth surface processes. In Web of Science I retreived all 1,425 Journal of Geophysical Research – Earth Surface articles from the journals inception (2003) to now (2016). Note that this number of articles (1,425) excludes all review articles, comments, editorials, and corrections. Here is the size distribution of cited references for the entire record (all 1,425 papers):

- Mean is 57
- Min is 11
- Max is 167

And here is that distribution broken up into yearly data to investigate temporal trends (red lines are yearly means, blue boxes outline Q1 and Q3 breaks, and the brackets are the data range):

- The mean size of the reference section grows by ~2.5 papers/year
- The top range, bottom range, Q1 and Q3 breaks all seem to increase

Note that JGR-ES publishes ~100 articles per year — so reference sections likely grow much slower than the growth of the published record (especially, for example, if 100’s of papers are published just about coastal dunes every year)