Abstract

Continental-shelf deposits off the Eel River, north-coastal California, document a recent increase in the magnitude and frequency of major hydrologic floods (≥10 yr recurrence interval). The shelf record reveals a sudden, three-fold increase in sedimentation rate ca. 1954 and a concomitant increase in the frequency of preserved flood beds. Comparison of sedimentary and river-discharge records reveals that major floods after ca. 1950 had a more pronounced effect on coastal sediment delivery and accumulation offshore than previous recorded events of similar magnitude, and that stratigraphic preservation of flood events is highly dependent on flood frequency and net sedimentation rate. We contend that this change in marine sedimentation is a response to documented climatic phenomena that have increased the frequency of major floods throughout the western United States during the past half century, together with intrabasinal impacts of extreme floods in 1955 and 1964. Anthropogenic increase in watershed-sediment production is a probable secondary factor.

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