Limits to resolving catastrophic events in the Quaternary fluvial record: a case study from the Nene valley, Northamptonshire, UK
Rebecca M. Briant, Philip L. Gibbard, Steve Boreham, G. Russell Coope, Richard C. Preece, 2008. "Limits to resolving catastrophic events in the Quaternary fluvial record: a case study from the Nene valley, Northamptonshire, UK", Landscape Evolution: Denudation, Climate and Tectonics over Different Time and Space Scales, K. Gallagher, S. J. Jones, J. Wainwright
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Flood events within rivers are responsible for much erosion and deposition. Thus, deposits laid down during floods could potentially comprise the bulk of the Quaternary fluvial record. However, it is difficult to detect individual flood events, as effectively illustrated by the Middle Devensian (Weichselian) to Holocene fluvial sequence from the Nene Valley, Northamptonshire, described in this paper. This is due to limits in the resolution of sedimentological, palaeontological and geochronological techniques. Geochronological techniques have the highest resolution, but error bars of c. 50 years (radiocarbon) and up to 2 ka (optically stimulated luminescence) in the Late-glacial do not allow detection of floods lasting only a few weeks or less. Geochronology is, however, essential for linking periods of fluvial deposition to climatic phases at the marine isotope substage scale. Thus, multiple age determinations show remnant Middle Devensian deposits within a facies association mainly of Younger Dryas age, showing similar fluvial response to climate during both time periods. Palaeontological assemblages suggest that climate was also similar, although with some subtle differences. Determining ‘average’ fluvial activity in response to broad climate phases improves understanding of how rivers behave over long time periods, even though determination of the role of flood events in the Quaternary fluvial record remains elusive.
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Landscape Evolution: Denudation, Climate and Tectonics over Different Time and Space Scales
The morphology of Earth’s surface reflects the interaction of climate, tectonics and denudational processes operating over a wide range of spatial and temporal scales. These processes can be considered catastrophic or continuous; depending on the timescale of observation or interest. Recent research had required integration of historically distinct subjects such as geomorphology, sedimentology, climatology and tectonics. Together, these have provided new insights into absolute and relative rates of denudation, and the factors that control the many dynamic processes involved. Specific subject areas covered are sediment transport processes and the timescales of competing processes, the role of the geological record and landscapes in constraining different processes, the nature of landscape evolution at different spatial scales and in contrasting geological environments.