Magnitude and frequency of Holocene palaeofloods in the southwestern United States: a review and discussion of implications

Y. Enzel, L. L. Ely, P. K. House, Victor Baker

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

5 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Data about the magnitude and time of occurrence of palaeofloods from the lower Colorado River basin enable us to test two long-standing hypotheses which have affected many studies and applications in the field of flood hydrology. The two hypotheses are (a) the existence of an upper boundary to flood magnitudes and whether there is a possibility of determining it from the existing data, and (b) the random occurrence versus clustering of the large floods through time. Earlier observations on regional flood envelope curves indicated the existence of an upper limit for flood magnitudes, but these studies limited their conclusions because of the short length of the systematic gauged data. This limitation is overcome here because palaeoflood data cover a much longer period of observation. Palaeoflood studies provide information about the largest individual floods experienced in many rivers in a specific region occurring over the last millennia. In the southwestern US, this information demonstrates that, even when the length of observational data increases to centuries and millennia, there is no change in the stabilized, regional envelope curves constructed from gauged and historical flood records. This pattern supports the hypothesis of an upper limit to flood magnitudes and points to a method for testing this hypothesis in other regions. There are surprising similarities between the envelope curve of the palaeoflood data and the envelope curve for the gauged and historical data in the lower Colorado River basin. These similarities indicate that in regions of the world where flood data is sparse envelope curves based on palaeoflood studies can provide basic data for engineering design purposes and other hydrological applications. The random occurrence of large floods in time is tested by constructing chronologies for the largest palaeofloods in several basins in the lower Colorado River basin. These chronologies indicate a clustering of the large floods in specific time periods. The similarity between the various time periods characterized by high- and low-flooding and other palaeoclimatic indicators from the southwestern US seems best explained by a climatic control on flood frequency over the last 5000 yr.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationGlobal continental changes: the context of palaeohydrology
EditorsJ. Branson
PublisherGeological Society, London; Special Publication, 115
Pages121-137
Number of pages17
StatePublished - 1996
Externally publishedYes

Fingerprint

paleoflood
Holocene
river basin
chronology
flooding
flood frequency
hydrology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Earth and Planetary Sciences(all)
  • Environmental Science(all)

Cite this

Enzel, Y., Ely, L. L., House, P. K., & Baker, V. (1996). Magnitude and frequency of Holocene palaeofloods in the southwestern United States: a review and discussion of implications. In J. Branson (Ed.), Global continental changes: the context of palaeohydrology (pp. 121-137). Geological Society, London; Special Publication, 115.

Magnitude and frequency of Holocene palaeofloods in the southwestern United States : a review and discussion of implications. / Enzel, Y.; Ely, L. L.; House, P. K.; Baker, Victor.

Global continental changes: the context of palaeohydrology. ed. / J. Branson. Geological Society, London; Special Publication, 115, 1996. p. 121-137.

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

Enzel, Y, Ely, LL, House, PK & Baker, V 1996, Magnitude and frequency of Holocene palaeofloods in the southwestern United States: a review and discussion of implications. in J Branson (ed.), Global continental changes: the context of palaeohydrology. Geological Society, London; Special Publication, 115, pp. 121-137.
Enzel Y, Ely LL, House PK, Baker V. Magnitude and frequency of Holocene palaeofloods in the southwestern United States: a review and discussion of implications. In Branson J, editor, Global continental changes: the context of palaeohydrology. Geological Society, London; Special Publication, 115. 1996. p. 121-137
Enzel, Y. ; Ely, L. L. ; House, P. K. ; Baker, Victor. / Magnitude and frequency of Holocene palaeofloods in the southwestern United States : a review and discussion of implications. Global continental changes: the context of palaeohydrology. editor / J. Branson. Geological Society, London; Special Publication, 115, 1996. pp. 121-137
@inbook{6781c35bdc894060b0e29a2468dca794,
title = "Magnitude and frequency of Holocene palaeofloods in the southwestern United States: a review and discussion of implications",
abstract = "Data about the magnitude and time of occurrence of palaeofloods from the lower Colorado River basin enable us to test two long-standing hypotheses which have affected many studies and applications in the field of flood hydrology. The two hypotheses are (a) the existence of an upper boundary to flood magnitudes and whether there is a possibility of determining it from the existing data, and (b) the random occurrence versus clustering of the large floods through time. Earlier observations on regional flood envelope curves indicated the existence of an upper limit for flood magnitudes, but these studies limited their conclusions because of the short length of the systematic gauged data. This limitation is overcome here because palaeoflood data cover a much longer period of observation. Palaeoflood studies provide information about the largest individual floods experienced in many rivers in a specific region occurring over the last millennia. In the southwestern US, this information demonstrates that, even when the length of observational data increases to centuries and millennia, there is no change in the stabilized, regional envelope curves constructed from gauged and historical flood records. This pattern supports the hypothesis of an upper limit to flood magnitudes and points to a method for testing this hypothesis in other regions. There are surprising similarities between the envelope curve of the palaeoflood data and the envelope curve for the gauged and historical data in the lower Colorado River basin. These similarities indicate that in regions of the world where flood data is sparse envelope curves based on palaeoflood studies can provide basic data for engineering design purposes and other hydrological applications. The random occurrence of large floods in time is tested by constructing chronologies for the largest palaeofloods in several basins in the lower Colorado River basin. These chronologies indicate a clustering of the large floods in specific time periods. The similarity between the various time periods characterized by high- and low-flooding and other palaeoclimatic indicators from the southwestern US seems best explained by a climatic control on flood frequency over the last 5000 yr.",
author = "Y. Enzel and Ely, {L. L.} and House, {P. K.} and Victor Baker",
year = "1996",
language = "English (US)",
pages = "121--137",
editor = "J. Branson",
booktitle = "Global continental changes: the context of palaeohydrology",
publisher = "Geological Society, London; Special Publication, 115",

}

TY - CHAP

T1 - Magnitude and frequency of Holocene palaeofloods in the southwestern United States

T2 - a review and discussion of implications

AU - Enzel, Y.

AU - Ely, L. L.

AU - House, P. K.

AU - Baker, Victor

PY - 1996

Y1 - 1996

N2 - Data about the magnitude and time of occurrence of palaeofloods from the lower Colorado River basin enable us to test two long-standing hypotheses which have affected many studies and applications in the field of flood hydrology. The two hypotheses are (a) the existence of an upper boundary to flood magnitudes and whether there is a possibility of determining it from the existing data, and (b) the random occurrence versus clustering of the large floods through time. Earlier observations on regional flood envelope curves indicated the existence of an upper limit for flood magnitudes, but these studies limited their conclusions because of the short length of the systematic gauged data. This limitation is overcome here because palaeoflood data cover a much longer period of observation. Palaeoflood studies provide information about the largest individual floods experienced in many rivers in a specific region occurring over the last millennia. In the southwestern US, this information demonstrates that, even when the length of observational data increases to centuries and millennia, there is no change in the stabilized, regional envelope curves constructed from gauged and historical flood records. This pattern supports the hypothesis of an upper limit to flood magnitudes and points to a method for testing this hypothesis in other regions. There are surprising similarities between the envelope curve of the palaeoflood data and the envelope curve for the gauged and historical data in the lower Colorado River basin. These similarities indicate that in regions of the world where flood data is sparse envelope curves based on palaeoflood studies can provide basic data for engineering design purposes and other hydrological applications. The random occurrence of large floods in time is tested by constructing chronologies for the largest palaeofloods in several basins in the lower Colorado River basin. These chronologies indicate a clustering of the large floods in specific time periods. The similarity between the various time periods characterized by high- and low-flooding and other palaeoclimatic indicators from the southwestern US seems best explained by a climatic control on flood frequency over the last 5000 yr.

AB - Data about the magnitude and time of occurrence of palaeofloods from the lower Colorado River basin enable us to test two long-standing hypotheses which have affected many studies and applications in the field of flood hydrology. The two hypotheses are (a) the existence of an upper boundary to flood magnitudes and whether there is a possibility of determining it from the existing data, and (b) the random occurrence versus clustering of the large floods through time. Earlier observations on regional flood envelope curves indicated the existence of an upper limit for flood magnitudes, but these studies limited their conclusions because of the short length of the systematic gauged data. This limitation is overcome here because palaeoflood data cover a much longer period of observation. Palaeoflood studies provide information about the largest individual floods experienced in many rivers in a specific region occurring over the last millennia. In the southwestern US, this information demonstrates that, even when the length of observational data increases to centuries and millennia, there is no change in the stabilized, regional envelope curves constructed from gauged and historical flood records. This pattern supports the hypothesis of an upper limit to flood magnitudes and points to a method for testing this hypothesis in other regions. There are surprising similarities between the envelope curve of the palaeoflood data and the envelope curve for the gauged and historical data in the lower Colorado River basin. These similarities indicate that in regions of the world where flood data is sparse envelope curves based on palaeoflood studies can provide basic data for engineering design purposes and other hydrological applications. The random occurrence of large floods in time is tested by constructing chronologies for the largest palaeofloods in several basins in the lower Colorado River basin. These chronologies indicate a clustering of the large floods in specific time periods. The similarity between the various time periods characterized by high- and low-flooding and other palaeoclimatic indicators from the southwestern US seems best explained by a climatic control on flood frequency over the last 5000 yr.

UR - http://www.scopus.com/inward/record.url?scp=0030377332&partnerID=8YFLogxK

UR - http://www.scopus.com/inward/citedby.url?scp=0030377332&partnerID=8YFLogxK

M3 - Chapter

AN - SCOPUS:0030377332

SP - 121

EP - 137

BT - Global continental changes: the context of palaeohydrology

A2 - Branson, J.

PB - Geological Society, London; Special Publication, 115

ER -