River confluences can be metastable and contain valuable geological records of catchment response to decadal- to millennial-scale environmental change. However, in alluvial reaches, floodstratigraphies are particularly hard to date using 14C. In this paper, we use a novel combination of optically stimulated luminescence and multiproxy sedimentological analyses to provide a flood record for the confluence of the Rivers Severn and Teme (United Kingdom) over the past two millennia, which we compare with independent European climate records. The results show that by ca. 2000 yr B.P., the Severn-Teme confluence had stabilized and overbank alluviation had commenced. Initially, this occurred from moderately high flood magnitudes between ca. 2000 and 1800 yr B.P. (50 BCE–150 CE), but was followed from 1800 to 1600 yr B.P. (150–350 CE) by fine alluvial deposition and decreased flood intensity. From 1600 to 1400 yr B.P. (350–550 CE), the accumulation rate increased, with evidence of large flood events associated with the climatic deterioration of the Dark Age Cold Period. Following a period of reduced flood activity after ca. 1400 yr B.P. (ca. 550 CE), larger flood events and increase in accumulation rate once again became more prevalent from ca. 850 yr B.P. (ca. 1100 CE), coincident with the start of the Medieval Climate Anomaly, a period associated with warmer, wetter conditions and increased land-use intensity. This state persisted until ca. 450 yr B.P. (ca. 1500 CE), after which increased flood magnitudes can be associated with climatic variations during the Little Ice Age. We demonstrate that from the combination of high-resolution dating techniques and multiple analytical parameters, distinctive phases of relative flood magnitude versus flood duration can be determined to a detailed chronological precision beyond that possible from 14C dating. This permits the identification of the regional factors behind floodplain sedimentation, which we correlate with the intensification of land-use and climatic drivers over the last two millennia.
A sub-centennial-scale optically stimulated luminescence chronostratigraphy and late Holocene flood history from a temperate river confluence
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Ben Pears, Antony G. Brown, Phillip S. Toms, Jamie Wood, David Sanderson, Richard Jones; A sub-centennial-scale optically stimulated luminescence chronostratigraphy and late Holocene flood history from a temperate river confluence. Geology doi: https://doi.org/10.1130/G47079.1
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