Assessing Timescales and Controls of Floodplain Evolution in Monsoonal Australia during the Late Quaternary

Friday, 19 December 2014: 5:30 PM
Jan-hendrik May, University of Wollongong, Wollongong, Australia and Frank Preusser, Stockholm University, Department of Physical Geography and Quaternary Geology, Stockholm, Sweden
Subtropical and tropical river systems are considered unique and sensitive archives for the detection of past changes in global circulation patterns due to their strategic position between significant atmospheric phenomena. In semi-arid to arid Central Australia, many of the hydrological variations have generally been attributed to variations in monsoon strength and position. While an increasing number of studies has recently addressed the reconstruction of monsoonal variations from high-resolution proxy records in tropical Australasia, very little data is available on the landscape-scale impacts such as weathering, erosion, flooding and sediment transport. Therefore, unraveling the impacts of past changes in monsoonal intensity on fluvial systems in Australia's tropical north - the 'Top End' - will substantially contribute to our understanding of cause and effect of climate change. Our study presents first results from the Adelaide River, one of the major river systems draining the 'Top End'. Here, extensive but currently inactive floodplains have accreted along the middle reaches of the catchment upstream of bedrock constrictions. Virtually no data is so far available from these floodplains although their stratigraphic and sedimentary record should contain valuable information on the late Quaternary evolution of the fluvial system in northern Australia. We have cored a transect of nine sediment profiles across the floodplains and levees associated with the Adelaide River. Based on these profiles, we (i) document their geomorphologic setting based on the analysis of high-resolution (LIDAR) elevation models and remote sensing data, (ii) establish a first stratigraphy for these floodplains based on field description, grain sizes and detailed total element data, (iii) present a chronological framework for the sediments based on luminescence dating, and (iv) discuss the significance of these results in terms of the larger-scale evolution of paleoenvironments and sea-level in the seasonal tropics during the late Quaternary.