Mud Layers in Stalagmites: A Proxy for Past Cyclone Activity

April 14th, 2012

Our current understanding of trends in tropical cyclone activity in the Indo-Pacific is restricted by a limited historical record.  Mud layers deposited in stalagmites during flooding events in cave KNI-51 from tropical Western Australia appear to be a proxy for tropical cyclone activity in the region.  Aragonite stalagmites were precisely dated using U/Th mass spectrometry techniques, and these high resolution dates were used to construct age models that can, in turn, be used to calculate the age of each mud layer.  Stalagmite KNI-51-G is 63 cm tall and cylindrically shaped, and preserves evidence of increased flooding frequency from 1310-1460 AD and decreasing flooding frequency from 1460-1640 AD.  These data compare well with similar analyses of two other stalagmites collected from KNI-51.  West Pacific Warm Pool sea surface temperatures, which exert a first-order control on tropical cyclone activity, track flood layer frequency from 1000-1637 AD suggesting that tropical cyclone-induced flooding increased during periods of warmer sea surface temperatures from 1100-1250 AD.

Daniel Cleary, ’13                                                                                                    
Shullsburg, WI
Major: Geology

Sponsor: Rhawn Denniston

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