High-Resolution Sedimentary Paleoflood Records in Alluvial River Environments: A Review of Recent Methodological Advances and Application to Flood Hazard Assessment

  • Willem H. J. ToonenEmail author
  • Samuel E. Munoz
  • Kim M. Cohen
  • Mark G. Macklin
Part of the Geography of the Physical Environment book series (GEOPHY)


In this chapter, we discuss recent developments in paleoflood hydrology that are specific to the collection of high-resolution records from alluvial settings. We describe how to develop and analyze alluvial paleoflood records, including (i) the identification of suitable depositional niches in valley environments and the mechanisms of overbank deposition that lead to flood deposit accumulation at those locations, (ii) approaches for sample material collection and methods to measure the coarseness of individual flood units, (iii) data assessment and reconstruction of absolute and relative flood magnitudes from sedimentary information, and (iv) developing flood chronologies with a discussion of available dating techniques. We argue that alluvial paleoflood archives hold enormous potential for flood hazard assessments in densely populated low-lying areas despite the challenge of quantitative discharge reconstructions in dynamic floodplain settings.


Extreme events Natural hazard Climate change Holocene Fluvial archive 



We thank the INQUA (EX-AQUA) and PAGES floods working groups for stimulating research and discussion on the subject of paleoflood hydrology. Jürgen Herget and Alessandro Fontana are cordially thanked for the invitation to write this chapter and for editing this volume.


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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  • Willem H. J. Toonen
    • 1
    Email author
  • Samuel E. Munoz
    • 2
    • 3
  • Kim M. Cohen
    • 4
    • 5
  • Mark G. Macklin
    • 6
    • 7
    • 8
  1. 1.Egyptology Unit, Faculty of ArtsKU LeuvenLouvainBelgium
  2. 2.Department of Marine and Environmental SciencesNortheastern UniversityNahantUSA
  3. 3.Department of Civil and Environmental EngineeringNortheastern UniversityBostonUSA
  4. 4.Department of Physical GeographyUtrecht UniversityUtrechtThe Netherlands
  5. 5.Department of Applied Geology and GeophysicsDeltaresUtrechtThe Netherlands
  6. 6.School of Geography and Lincoln Centre for Water and Planetary Health, University of LincolnLincolnUK
  7. 7.Innovative River Solutions, Institute of Agriculture and Environment, Massey UniversityPalmerston NorthNew Zealand
  8. 8.Centre for the Study of the Inland, La Trobe UniversityMelbourneAustralia

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