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Limits to resolving catastrophic events in the Quaternary fluvial record: a case study from the Nene valley, Northamptonshire, UK

By
Rebecca M. Briant
Rebecca M. Briant
1
Quaternary Palaeoenvironments Group, Department of Geography
,
University of Cambridge
,
Downing Place, Cambridge CB2 3EN
,
UK
(e-mail: b.briant@qmul.ac.uk)
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Philip L. Gibbard
Philip L. Gibbard
1
Quaternary Palaeoenvironments Group, Department of Geography
,
University of Cambridge
,
Downing Place, Cambridge CB2 3EN
,
UK
(e-mail: b.briant@qmul.ac.uk)
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Steve Boreham
Steve Boreham
1
Quaternary Palaeoenvironments Group, Department of Geography
,
University of Cambridge
,
Downing Place, Cambridge CB2 3EN
,
UK
(e-mail: b.briant@qmul.ac.uk)
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G. Russell Coope
G. Russell Coope
2
Centre for Quaternary Research, Department of Geography, Royal Holloway
,
University of London
,
Egham, Surrey TW20 0EX
,
UK
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Richard C. Preece
Richard C. Preece
3
Department of Zoology, Downing Street, Cambridge CB2 3EJ
,
UK
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Published:
January 01, 2008

Abstract

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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Contents

Geological Society, London, Special Publications

Landscape Evolution: Denudation, Climate and Tectonics over Different Time and Space Scales

K. Gallagher
K. Gallagher
Université de Rennes
,
France
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S. J. Jones
S. J. Jones
University of Durham
,
UK
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J. Wainwright
J. Wainwright
University of Sheffield
,
UK
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Geological Society of London
Volume
296
ISBN electronic:
9781862395442
Publication date:
January 01, 2008

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