The threshold between storm overwash and inundation and the implication to paleo-storm records and climate signatures.
Monday, 15 December 2014: 9:15 AM
In modern coastal systems, the sensitivity of a coastal site to erosion or deposition during storm conditions depends largely on the geomorphic configuration (e.g. dune or beach height and width) and the storm-induced oceanographic processes (surge and waves). Depending on the magnitude of these variables, coastal systems may be eroded, overwashed, breached, and/or inundated during the storm. To date, there has been no attempt to evaluate how these observable modern differences in storm-impact regimes might be utilized to interpret paleo-storm intensities and frequencies. Time-series of sediment texture, radioisotopic, and foraminiferal data from back-barrier environments along the Chandeleur Islands (Louisiana, USA) document the emplacement of a storm event deposit from Hurricane Isaac and we use this event to test paleo-storm intensity reconstruction methods. Water level reconstructed for the event layer using an advection (grain-size) settling model are 2 – 3 times greater than measured during the storm. The over-estimation is linked to the reconstruction model’s assumptions concerning sediment transport during storms (i.e., overwash only), while actual processes included inundation as well. These contrasts may result in misidentification (i.e., presence/absence) and/or misclassification (i.e., intensity) of storms in the geologic record (e.g., low geomorphic conditions and high water levels) that would in turn affect the ability to link storm frequency or intensity to climatic drivers.