Abstract

Understanding of long-term dynamics of intense coastal storms is important for determining the frequency and impact of these events on sandy coasts. We use optically stimulated luminescence (OSL) dates on relict scarps within a prograded barrier sequence to reconstruct the chronology of large-magnitude erosional events in the western Gulf of Maine. OSL dates obtained on quartz-rich sediments immediately overlying relict scarps indicate severe beach erosion and retreat due to erosional events ca. 1550, 390, 290, and 150 cal yr B.P. Our data provide new evidence of increased storm activity (most likely frequency and/or intensity of extratropical storms) during the past 500 yr, which was preceded by a relatively calm period lasting ∼1000 yr. The width of the coastal sequence preserved between successive paleoscarps shows strong correlation with the time interval elapsed between storms. Our findings indicate that diagnostic geophysical and sedimentological signatures of severe erosional events offer new opportunities for assessing the impact and timing of major storms along sandy coasts.

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