Morphological records of storm floods exemplified by the impact of the 1872 Baltic storm on a sandy spit system in south-eastern Denmark

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Beach-ridge systems are important geo-archives providing evidence for past wave climate including catastrophic storm flood events. This study investigates the morphological impacts of the 1872 Baltic storm flood on a beach-ridge system (sandy spit) in south-eastern Denmark and evaluates the frequency of extreme storm flood events in the area over a longer time perspective. This paper combines field studies of morphology and sedimentary deposits, studies of historical maps, digital terrain model, ground-penetrating radar profiles, and luminescence dating. Sea water reached 2.8 m above mean sea level (amsl) during peak inundation and, based on studies of the morphological impacts of the 1872 storm flood, the event can be divided into four phases. Phase 1: increasing mean water levels and wave activity at the beach brought sediments from the beach (intertidal bars and normal berm) higher up in the profile and led to the formation of a storm-berm. Phase 2: water levels further increased and sediment in the upper part of the profile continued to build up the storm-berm. Phase 3: water levels now reached the top of the dune ridge and were well above the storm-berm level. Sea water was breaching the dune ridge at several sites and wash-over fans were generated until a level where the mean water level had dropped too much. Phase 4: the non-vegetated wash-over fans functioned as pathways for aeolian sand transport and relatively high dunes were formed in particular along the margins of the fan where aeolian sand was trapped by existing vegetation. The studied beach-ridge system records about 4500 years of accumulation; the storm flood sediments described are unique suggesting that the 1872 Baltic storm flood event was an extreme event. Thus studies of beach-ridge systems form a new source for understanding storm surge risk
Original languageEnglish
JournalEarth Surface Processes and Landforms
Issue number4
Pages (from-to)499-508
Number of pages10
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2014

ID: 128342208