Convergent human and climate forcing of late-Holocene flooding in Northwest England



Schillereff, DN, Chiverrell, RC ORCID: 0000-0002-7307-2756, Macdonald, Neil ORCID: 0000-0003-0350-7096, Hooke, J ORCID: 0000-0002-8367-3010, Welsh, KE, Piliposian, G and Croudace, IW
(2019) Convergent human and climate forcing of late-Holocene flooding in Northwest England. Global and Planetary Change, 182. 102998 - 102998.

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Abstract

Concern is growing that climate change may amplify global flood risk but short hydrological data series hamper hazard assessment. Lake sediment reconstructions are capturing a fuller picture of rare, high-magnitude events but the UK has produced few lake palaeoflood records. We report the longest lake-derived flood reconstruction for the UK to date, a 1500-year record from Brotherswater, northwest England. Its catchment is well-suited physiographically to palaeoflood research, but its homogeneous, dark brown sediment matrix precludes visual identification of flood layers. Instead, an outlier detection routine applied to high-resolution particle size measurements showed a >90% match, in stratigraphic sequence, to measured high river flows. Our late-Holocene palaeoflood reconstruction reveals nine multi-decadal periods of more frequent flooding (510–630 CE, 890–960, 990–1080, 1470–1560, 1590–1620, 1650–1710, 1740–1770, 1830–1890 and 1920–2012), and these show a significant association with negative winter North Atlantic Oscillation (wNAO) phasing and some synchrony with solar minima. These flood-rich episodes also overlap with local and regional land-use intensification, which we propose has amplified the flood signal by creating a more efficient catchment sediment conveyor and more rapid hillslope-channel hydrological connectivity. Disentangling anthropogenic and climatic drivers is a challenge but anthropogenic landscape transformation should evidently not be underestimated in palaeoflood reconstructions. Our paper also demonstrates that flood histories can be extracted from the numerous lakes worldwide containing organic-rich, visually homogeneous sediments. This transformative evidence base should lead to more reliable assessments of flood frequency and risks to ecosystems and infrastructure.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: Concern is growing that climate change may amplify global flood risk but short hydrological data series hamper hazard assessment. Lake sediment reconstructions are capturing a fuller picture of rare, high-magnitude events but the UK has produced few lake palaeoflood records. We report the longest lake-derived flood reconstruction for the UK to date, a 1500-year record from Brotherswater, northwest England. Its catchment is well-suited physiographically to palaeoflood research, but its homogeneous, dark brown sediment matrix precludes visual identification of flood layers. Instead, an outlier detection routine applied to high-resolution particle size measurements showed a >90% match, in stratigraphic sequence, to measured high river flows. Our late-Holocene palaeoflood reconstruction reveals nine multi-decadal periods of more frequent flooding (510–630 CE, 890–960, 990–1080, 1470–1560, 1590–1620, 1650–1710, 1740–1770, 1830–1890 and 1920–2012), and these show a significant association with negative winter North Atlantic Oscillation (wNAO) phasing and some synchrony with solar minima. These flood-rich episodes also overlap with local and regional land-use intensification, which we propose has amplified the flood signal by creating a more efficient catchment sediment conveyor and more rapid hillslope-channel hydrological connectivity. Disentangling anthropogenic and climatic drivers is a challenge but anthropogenic landscape transformation should evidently not be underestimated in palaeoflood reconstructions. Our paper also demonstrates that flood histories can be extracted from the numerous lakes worldwide containing organic-rich, visually homogeneous sediments. This transformative evidence base should lead to more reliable assessments of flood frequency and risks to ecosystems and infrastructure.
Uncontrolled Keywords: Flood hazard, Human activity, Lake sediments, North Atlantic Oscillation, Paleofloods, Solar forcing
Depositing User: Symplectic Admin
Date Deposited: 09 Aug 2019 08:41
Last Modified: 13 Aug 2022 12:29
DOI: 10.1016/j.gloplacha.2019.102998
Related URLs:
URI: https://livrepository.liverpool.ac.uk/id/eprint/3051287