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The fluvial system response to abrupt climate change during the last cold stage: The Upper Pleistocene River Thames fluvial succession at Ashton Keynes, UK

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Darrel Maddy


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The last interglacial-glacial cycle (125-10 ka BP) is characterised by numerous rapid shifts in global climate on sub-Milankovitch timescales, recorded in the ocean and ice core records. These climatic fluctuations are clearly recorded in those European terrestrial sedimentary sequences that span this time period without interruption. In the UK, only fragmentary Upper Pleistocene sequences exist, mainly within the fluvial archive of the major river systems such as the Thames. The response of the upper River Thames to abrupt fluctuations in climate is documented in the fluvial sediments beneath the Floodplain Terrace (Northmoor Member of the Upper Thames Formation) at Ashton Keynes, Wiltshire. A number of criteria are set out by which significant changes in the fluvial system may be established from the sedimentological, palaeoecological and geochronological information contained within the succession. The sedimentary succession is divisible into four facies associations, on the basis of their sedimentology and bounding surface characteristics. These represent distinct phases of fluvial activity at the site and allow changes in fluvial style to be inferred. Palaeoecological reconstructions from pollen analysis of peats within the sequence provides an indication of the nature and direction of Late Glacial environmental change and optically stimulated luminescence and radiocarbon dating methods provide chronological control on the sequence. These data suggest that major changes in fluvial style are recorded within the succession, which can be related to the climatic fluctuations that took place on the oxygen isotope stage 5a/4 transition (approximately 70 ka BP) and the Devensian Late Glacial climatic warm-cold-warm oscillation (13-11 ka BP). The changes in fluvial style are a result of variations in sediment supply to the river resulting from changes in slope stability, vegetation cover and cold-climate mass movement processes and variations in discharge regime caused by changes in precipitation patterns, snow cover, permafrost distribution and vegetation cover. © 2001 Elsevier Science B.V.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Lewis S, Maddy D, Scaife R

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Global and Planetary Change

Year: 2001

Volume: 28

Issue: 1-2

Pages: 341-359

Print publication date: 01/01/2001

ISSN (print): 0921-8181

ISSN (electronic): 1872-6364


DOI: 10.1016/S0921-8181(00)00083-7


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