Abstract

Major floods have increased in frequency in many parts of the world, and this is often attributed to anthropogenic climate change. Because of the short length of most gauged records (∼50 yr), it is unclear whether these events represent a short-term anomaly or a shift to a prolonged flood-rich period. In this paper, we use event-scale paleoflood records from upland and lowland floodplains to demonstrate the relationship between individual flood events, clusters of events in multiyear episodes, and multidecadal- to centennial-scale flood-rich phases. Catchment- and regional-scale data show that individual events and episodes generally fall within extended flood-rich phases controlled by climate. Furthermore, contrary to recent suggestions that environmental signals may be rendered incomplete in fluvial systems by autogenic processes, from a multidecadal (and longer) perspective it is clear that floodplain environments can register and preserve a useful multiscale hydromorphic signal of climate change.

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