A history of paleoflood hydrology in the United States

Eos, Earth and Space Science News



The origins of paleoflood hydrology in the United States can be traced back to the beginning of the 19th century, when windgaps and watergaps in the Applachians were believed to have been eroded by extraordinary floods as large lakes that were ponded behind the ridges rapidly drained. Sediment evidence for extraordinary floods was evoked several decades later when glacial sediments in New England were interpreted as deposits from the great Biblical deluge, and estimates of the depth and velocity of the great flood were attempted. The popularization of the glacial origins of drift by Agassiz by 1840 resulted in strong beliefs in uniformitarianism and waning interests in paleoflood investigations. The documentation of the origins of the channeled scablands in eastern Washington by catastrophic glacial outbreak floods, begun by Bretz in the early 1920s, led to renewed interest in paleoflood hydrology. Subsequent efforts to reconstruct hydraulic variables of past floods used conventional open channel flow equations applied to other enormous Pleistocene floods. The elevation of sediments was used as a paleostage estimator in the 1880s, and botanical techniques for estimating paleoflood frequency and magnitude were well documented by the mid-1960s. Since 1970, an exponential expansion has occurred in the recognition and use of paleoflood hydrology in the United States.

Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title A history of paleoflood hydrology in the United States
Series title Eos, Earth and Space Science News
DOI 10.1029/EO067i017p00425-02
Volume 67
Issue 17
Year Published 1986
Language English
Publisher American Geophysical Union
Publisher location Washington, D.C.
Contributing office(s) Volcano Hazards Program, Volcano Science Center
Description 4 p.
First page 425
Last page 430
Time Range Start 1800-01-01
Time Range End 1970-12-31
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