Lake Sediments as Archives of Recurrence Rates and Intensities of Past Flood Events

  • Adrian Gilli
  • Flavio S. Anselmetti
  • Lukas Glur
  • Stefanie B. Wirth
Part of the Advances in Global Change Research book series (AGLO, volume 47)


Palaeoflood hydrology is an expanding field as the damage potential of flood and flood-related processes are increasing with the population density and the value of the infrastructure. Assessing the risk of these hazards in mountainous terrain requires knowledge about the frequency and severness of such events in the past. A wide range of methods is employed using diverse biologic, geomorphic or geologic evidences to track past flood events. Impact of floods are studied and dated on alluvial fans and cones using for example the growth disturbance of trees (Stoffel and Bollschweiler 2008; Schneuwly-Bollschweiler and Stoffel 2012: this volume) or stratigraphic layers deposited by debris flows, allowing to reconstruct past flood frequencies (Bardou et~al. 2003). Further downstream, the classical approach of palaeoflood hydrology (Kochel and Baker 1982) utilizes geomorphic indicators such as overbank sediments, silt lines and erosion features of floods along a river (e.g. Benito and Thorndycraft 2005). Fine-grained sediment settles out of the river suspension in eddies or backwater areas, where the flow velocity of the river is reduced. Records of these deposits at different elevations across a river’s profile can be used to assess the discharge of the past floods. This approach of palaeoflood hydrology studies was successfully applied in several river catchments (e.g. Ely et al. 1993; Macklin and Lewin 2003; O’Connor et al. 1994; Sheffer et al. 2003; Thorndycraft et al. 2005; Thorndycraft and Benito 2006). All these different reconstruction methods have their own advantages and disadvantages, but often these studies have a limited time coverage and the records are potentially incomplete due to lateral limits of depositional areas and due to the erosional power of fluvial processes that remove previously deposited flood witnesses. Here, we present a method that follows the sediment particle transported by a flood event to its final sink: the lacustrine basin.


Debris Flow Flood Event Isothermal Remanent Magnetization Background Sediment Background Sedimentation 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



The authors thank the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNF) for the financial support within the project ‘FloodAlp’ (Project No. 200021–121909) to initiate research on the Holocene flood history in Switzerland and northern Italy using lake sediments. Figures 1 and 3 contains scientific results form a joint project on Lake Ledro, Italy whose co-funding by the French ANR (project LAMA, directed by M. Magny and N. Combourieu-Nebout) is kindly acknowledged. The cores from Lake Thun shown in Fig. 2 were collected as part of a project in cooperation with Stephanie Girardclos, University of Geneva.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Adrian Gilli
    • 1
  • Flavio S. Anselmetti
    • 2
    • 3
  • Lukas Glur
    • 2
  • Stefanie B. Wirth
    • 1
  1. 1.Geological InstituteETH ZurichZurichSwitzerland
  2. 2.Department of Surface WatersEawagDübendorfSwitzerland
  3. 3.Institute of Geological SciencesUniversity of BernBernSwitzerland

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