Millennial Rates of Sea Cliff Retreat Derived From Cosmogenic 10Be and Coastal Platform Morphology

Tuesday, 16 December 2014: 3:25 PM
Michael A Ellis1, Martin D Hurst1 and Dylan H Rood2,3, (1)British Geological Survey, Nottinghamshire, United Kingdom, (2)University of California, Santa Barabara, Earth Research Institute, Santa Barbara, CA, United States, (3)Scottish Universities Environmental Research Center at the University of Glasgow, East Kilbride, United Kingdom
Observation of cliff erosion are often limited to relatively short timescales (a few decades), which are within the timeframe of anthropogenic modification of the coast and may be shorter than the recurrence interval for erosion events. Here we present long-term (centennial-millennial) averaged rates of sea cliff retreat for chalk cliffs in SE England derived from cosmogenic isotopes and coastal morphology. We determine long-term rates of sea cliff erosion from 10Be measured from in situ flint samples collected from three transects across the coastal platform in East Sussex. A numerical model of 10Be accumulation on an evolving coastal profile allows estimation of cliff retreat rate averaged over several hundred years. The model accounts for variation in 10Be accumulation with tides and sea-level rise, and takes into account platform downwear and topographic shielding by adjacent cliffs. Additionally, we use high-resolution (1m) multibeam bathymetry to map the extent of the coastal platform based on the surface texture in order to infer the position of the coast at ~8 ka. The difference in position to the current coastline provides estimates of Holocene-averaged rates of cliff erosion for all chalk cliffed coastline in the region. Comparison to historic records of cliff retreat reveals key similarities and differences between long and short-term signals. In certain locations, there are significant discrepancies (either faster or slower) between historic records and long-term rates of retreat. Each type of discrepancy may be the result of human interaction with the coastal environment, whether that interaction is local or non-local, and it is worthwhile noting that sites of relatively low historic rates of erosion are likely subject to high-magnitude, low-frequency failure events that could have devastating effects on human lives and infrastructure in areas that are considered to be low risk.