Late-Holocene storm imprint in a coastal sedimentary sequence (Northwest Iberian coast)

Alejandra Feal-Pérez, Ramón Blanco-Chao*, Cruz Ferro-Vázquez, Antonio Martínez-Cortizas, Manuela Costa-Casais

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


A combination of sedimentological, geomorphological, and pedological methods has been used to study a late-Holocene sedimentary sequence in a rock coast sector from NW Spain, with the aim of relating it to storm events and their morphodynamic effects. The sequence contains two coarse beach layers at an elevation of 2.8-3.5 m above the present highest astronomical tide (HAT). Radiocarbon dating revealed that their deposition had begun during 1735-1590 cal. yr BP and has continued until the present. The entire beach system experienced considerable morphological change after 1320-1230 cal. yr BP, with a westward displacement of the beach and a retreat of the sedimentary cliff in the eastern section. The two beach layers seem to have been formed by vertical aggradation of clasts and sand during high-energy storm events, highlighting the role of these events in the formation of sedimentary sequences on the rocky coasts of mid-Atlantic Europe. The effects of a recent storm event, recorded in March 2008, and the results of wave calculations suggest that long swell waves were needed for the accretion of the clasts. Using a hindcast model of wave data, we found a positive correlation between the winter North Atlantic Oscillation (WNAO) index and the winter monthly mean wave height and peak period. While the 14C chronology of beach sedimentation coincides with known climatic periods dominated by a positive NAO index, these results point to the importance of high-energy events and the synergies between past and present processes in the recent evolution and the morphodynamics of rock coast environments.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)477-488
Number of pages12
JournalThe Holocene
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2014


  • gravel beaches
  • late Holocene
  • North Atlantic Oscillation index
  • NW Iberian Peninsula
  • sea level
  • storminess

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