Can sand dunes be used to study historic storm events?

Mark D. Bateman*, Greg Rushby, Sam Stein, Robert A. Ashurst, David S. Stevenson, Julie M. Jones, W. Roland Gehrels

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Knowing the long-term frequency of high magnitude storm events that cause coastal inundation is critical for present coastal management, especially in the context of rising sea levels and potentially increasing frequency and severity of storm events. Coastal sand dunes may provide a sedimentary archive of past storm events from which long-term frequencies of large storms can be reconstructed. This study uses novel portable optically stimulated luminescence (POSL) profiles from coastal dunes to reconstruct the sedimentary archive of storm and surge activity for Norfolk, UK. Application of POSL profiling with supporting luminescence ages and particle size analysis to coastal dunes provides not only information of dunefield evolution but also on past coastal storms. In this study, seven storm events, two major, were identified from the dune archive spanning the last 140years. These appear to correspond to historical reports of major storm surges. Dunes appear to be only recording (at least at the sampling resolution used here) the highest storm levels that were associated with significant flooding. As such the approach seems to hold promise to obtain a better understanding of the frequency of large storms by extending the dune archive records further back to times when documentation of storm surges was sparse.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages12
Publication statusPublished - 5 Nov 2017


  • Dunes
  • Norfolk
  • Particle size
  • Portable OSL
  • Storms

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