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Water Science and Applications



  • Paleohydrology
  • Floods

Index Terms

  • 1800 Hydrology
  • 1821 Hydrology: Floods
  • 1824 Hydrology: Geomorphology
  • 1894 Hydrology: Instruments and techniques



Caves and their potential use in paleoflood studies

G. S. Springer

Caves may act as repositories for geomorphic information. However, few studies have explicitly addressed subterranean paleoflood deposits and their relationships to adjacent surface streams. True caves, as opposed to shelters and alcoves, may possess complex relationships with overlying valley walls, base level streams, and adjacent catchments. The resulting sedimentary record may co-mingle sediments from many inputs. Discerning the origin and meaning of the sediments is possible through analysis and mapping of sediment facies, textures, and stratigraphic discontinuities. Observations made in caves along the Cheat and Greenbrier rivers, West Virginia show that historical flood deposits form allostratigraphic packages bounded by scour surfaces, fungal-infested organic mats, and mud-cracks. Deposits consist primarily of loamy silts, fine sands, and abundant woody debris. Preservation of the deposits is only assured where influx of water from valley walls is minimal. Locally, a humid, temperate climate yields high in-cave humidities and a nearly constant year round temperature of∼12° C. These conditions favor bioturbation and decay of paleoflood deposits. True caves are usually integrated components of fluvial systems and much is to be gained by integrating fluvial and karst studies, particularly in climatic regions unfavorable to preservation of surficial paleoflood deposits.

Citation: Springer, G. S. (2002), Caves and their potential use in paleoflood studies, in Ancient Floods, Modern Hazards: Principles and Applications of Paleoflood Hydrology, Water Sci. Appl., vol. 5, edited by P. K. House et al., pp. 329–343, AGU, Washington, D. C., doi:10.1029/WS005p0329.

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