Paleotempestology

Today, storm-driven flooding   poses one of the greatest threats to the communities and natural resources along Alaska’s coastlines. The lack of data in regards to the long-term frequency and return interval of major storms limits our ability to understand their impacts at the spatiotemporal scales necessary to assess risk. Paleotempestology, the study of prehistoric storms based on geologic proxies, can be applied to address this paucity of data. Previous studies have shown that sediment archives of past storm events have been preserved in some coastal environments as inorganic coarse grain horizons laminated between finer organic sediments (e.g. Emery, 1969; Liu and Fearn, 1993; 2000; Brandon et al., 2014). Even though there has been great success in paleotempestological methods in tropical (e.g. Nott, 2004; Denommee et al., 2014; van Hengstum et al., 2014; Ercolani et al., 2015) and mid-latitude (e.g. Boldt et al., 2010; May et al., 2013) regions, little has been achieved at understanding long-term storm impacts in the circumpolar north. making its application in these settings a novel venture in science (Erikson et al., 2015). This fact is partially due to the remoteness and harsh environmental conditions encountered in these regions making costs and logistics prohibitive, compounded by the presence of a dynamic ice environment that complicates core interpretation.

Sediment cores from salt marshes along the Chukchi coastline can hold a record of storm landfall going back thousands of years