Publications by authors named "Rolf Aalto"

4 Publications

  • Page 1 of 1

Fluvial sediment supply to a mega-delta reduced by shifting tropical-cyclone activity.

Nature 2016 11 19;539(7628):276-279. Epub 2016 Oct 19.

Department of Geography, University of Exeter, Exeter EX4 4RJ, UK.

The world's rivers deliver 19 billion tonnes of sediment to the coastal zone annually, with a considerable fraction being sequestered in large deltas, home to over 500 million people. Most (more than 70 per cent) large deltas are under threat from a combination of rising sea levels, ground surface subsidence and anthropogenic sediment trapping, and a sustainable supply of fluvial sediment is therefore critical to prevent deltas being 'drowned' by rising relative sea levels. Here we combine suspended sediment load data from the Mekong River with hydrological model simulations to isolate the role of tropical cyclones in transmitting suspended sediment to one of the world's great deltas. We demonstrate that spatial variations in the Mekong's suspended sediment load are correlated (r = 0.765, P < 0.1) with observed variations in tropical-cyclone climatology, and that a substantial portion (32 per cent) of the suspended sediment load reaching the delta is delivered by runoff generated by rainfall associated with tropical cyclones. Furthermore, we estimate that the suspended load to the delta has declined by 52.6 ± 10.2 megatonnes over recent years (1981-2005), of which 33.0 ± 7.1 megatonnes is due to a shift in tropical-cyclone climatology. Consequently, tropical cyclones have a key role in controlling the magnitude of, and variability in, transmission of suspended sediment to the coast. It is likely that anthropogenic sediment trapping in upstream reservoirs is a dominant factor in explaining past, and anticipating future, declines in suspended sediment loads reaching the world's major deltas. However, our study shows that changes in tropical-cyclone climatology affect trends in fluvial suspended sediment loads and thus are also key to fully assessing the risk posed to vulnerable coastal systems.
View Article and Find Full Text PDF

Download full-text PDF

Source
http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/nature19809DOI Listing
November 2016

Enduring legacy of a toxic fan via episodic redistribution of California gold mining debris.

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 2013 Nov 28;110(46):18436-41. Epub 2013 Oct 28.

Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of St. Andrews, St. Andrews KY16 9AL, United Kingdom.

The interrelationships between hydrologically driven evolution of legacy landscapes downstream of major mining districts and the contamination of lowland ecosystems are poorly understood over centennial time scales. Here, we demonstrate within piedmont valleys of California's Sierra Nevada, through new and historical data supported by modeling, that anthropogenic fans produced by 19th century gold mining comprise an episodically persistent source of sediment-adsorbed Hg to lowlands. Within the enormous, iconic Yuba Fan, we highlight (i) an apparent shift in the relative processes of fan evolution from gradual vertical channel entrenchment to punctuated lateral erosion of fan terraces, thus enabling entrainment of large volumes of Hg-laden sediment during individual floods, and (ii) systematic intrafan redistribution and downstream progradation of fan sediment into the Central Valley, triggered by terrace erosion during increasingly long, 10-y flood events. Each major flood apparently erodes stored sediment and delivers to sensitive lowlands the equivalent of ~10-30% of the entire postmining Sierran Hg mass so far conveyed to the San Francisco Bay-Delta (SFBD). This process of protracted but episodic erosion of legacy sediment and associated Hg is likely to persist for >10(4) y. It creates, within an immense swath of river corridor well upstream of the SFBD, new contaminated floodplain surfaces primed for Hg methylation and augments/replenishes potential Hg sources to the SFBD. Anticipation, prediction, and management of toxic sediment delivery, and corresponding risks to lowland ecology and human society globally, depend on the morphodynamic stage of anthropogenic fan evolution, synergistically coupled to changing frequency of and duration extreme floods.
View Article and Find Full Text PDF

Download full-text PDF

Source
http://dx.doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1302295110DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3831998PMC
November 2013

210Pb geochronology of flood events in large tropical river systems.

Philos Trans A Math Phys Eng Sci 2012 May;370(1966):2040-74

Department of Geography, University of Exeter, Exeter EX44RJ, UK.

Floodplain sedimentation removes particles from fluvial transport and constructs stratigraphic records of flooding, biogeochemical sequestration and other aspects of the environmental history of river basins-insight that is enhanced by accurate geochronology. The natural fallout radionuclide (210)Pb, often employed to date lacustrine and marine sediments, has previously been used to determine floodplain accumulation rates over decadal-to-century time scales using the assumption that both input concentration and sediment accumulation rates are constant. We test this model in approximately 110 cores of pristine floodplains along approximately 2000 km of the Rios Beni and Mamore in northern Bolivia; over 95 per cent of the (210)Pb profiles depict individual episodic deposition events, not steady-state accumulation, requiring a revised geochronological methodology. Discrete measurements of down-core, clay-normalized adsorbed excess (210)Pb activity are coupled with a new conceptual model of (210)Pb input during floods: constant initial reach clay activity, unknown sedimentation (CIRCAUS). This enhanced methodology yields (210)Pb dates that correspond well with (i) dates determined from meteoric caps, (ii) observed dates of river bar formation, (iii) known flood dates, and (iv) dates from nearby cores along the same transect. Similar results have been found for other large rivers. The CIRCAUS method for geochronology therefore offers a flexible and accurate method for dating both episodic (decadal recurrence frequency) and constant (annual recurrence) sediment accumulation on floodplains.
View Article and Find Full Text PDF

Download full-text PDF

Source
http://dx.doi.org/10.1098/rsta.2011.0607DOI Listing
May 2012

Episodic sediment accumulation on Amazonian flood plains influenced by El Niño/Southern Oscillation.

Nature 2003 Oct;425(6957):493-7

Quaternary Research Center University of Washington, Seattle, Washington 98195, USA.

Continental-scale rivers with a sandy bed sequester a significant proportion of their sediment load in flood plains. The spatial extent and depths of such deposits have been described, and flood-plain accumulation has been determined at decadal timescales, but it has not been possible to identify discrete events or to resolve deposition on near-annual timescales. Here we analyse (210)Pb activity profiles from sediment cores taken in the pristine Beni and Mamore river basins, which together comprise 720,000 km2 of the Amazon basin, to investigate sediment accumulation patterns in the Andean-Amazonian foreland. We find that in most locations, sediment stratigraphy is dominated by discrete packages of sediments of uniform age, which are typically 20-80 cm thick, with system-wide recurrence intervals of about 8 yr, indicating relatively rare episodic deposition events. Ocean temperature and stream flow records link these episodic events to rapidly rising floods associated with La Niña events, which debouch extraordinary volumes of sediments from the Andes. We conclude that transient processes driven by the El Niño/Southern Oscillation cycle control the formation of the Bolivian flood plains and modulate downstream delivery of sediments as well as associated carbon, nutrients and pollutants to the Amazon main stem.
View Article and Find Full Text PDF

Download full-text PDF

Source
http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/nature02002DOI Listing
October 2003
-->