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The University of Massachusetts Amherst

Grain-Size Analysis of Hurricane-Induced Event Beds in a New England Salt Marsh, Massachusetts, USA


Katherine Castagno

Jeffrey Donnelly

Jonathan Woodruff

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Year of Publication:
Coastal Education and Research Foundation
Secondary Title:
Journal of Coastal Research


Tropical cyclones pose a growing threat to coastal infrastructure and livelihood. Because instrumental and historic records are too short to help us understand interactions between tropical cyclones and climate on a longer scale, proxy records are the only means for reconstructing millennia of tropical cyclone impacts. This study determines grain-size trends in storm-induced overwash deposits along a transect of sediment cores from a salt marsh in Mattapoisett, Massachusetts, to characterize sorting trends and compare deposits associated with individual storms. The overwash deposits preserved within the high-marsh peat provide a record spanning the last two millennia. Building on a 2010 study, a different approach was used to accurately determine the grain-size distribution of overwash deposits from cores in a transect running perpendicular to the adjacent sandy/gravely barrier. Although maximum grain-size values are expected to decrease as distance from the barrier increases, not all event deposits that were studied follow this trend within uncertainty. Analysis of the storm event beds reveal a significant difference in settling trends between historic and prehistoric deposits, with historic deposits largely displaying landward-fining trends and prehistoric deposits largely displaying landward-coarsening trends. This suggests changes in the hydrodynamic or that geomorphic regime may have altered the way in which storm beds were deposited at this site. This new in-depth, transect-based approach has utility for improving the accuracy of future storm reconstructions, particularly for events for which no historic record exists.