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River sediments

Martin Williams
Philosophical Transactions: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences
Vol. 370, No. 1966, River history (13 May 2012), pp. 2093-2122
Published by: Royal Society
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/23250622
Page Count: 30
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River sediments
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Abstract

River history is reflected in the nature of the sediments carried and deposited over time. Using examples drawn from around the world, this account illustrates how river sediments have been used to reconstruct past environmental changes at a variety of scales in time and space. Problems arising from a patchy alluvial record and from influences external to the river basin can make interpretation difficult. The Nile is treated in some detail because its history is further complicated by tectonic, volcanic and climatic events in its headwaters and by enduring human impacts. It arose soon after 30 Ma. Since that time approximately 100 000 km 3 of rock have been eroded from its Ethiopian sources and deposited in the eastern Mediterranean, with minor amounts of sediment laid down along its former flood plains in Egypt and Sudan. From these fragmentary alluvial remains, a detailed history of Nile floods and droughts has been reconstructed for the last 15 kyr, and, with less detail, for the past 150 kyr, which shows strong accordance with global fluctuations in the strength of the summer monsoon, which are in turn perhaps modulated by changes in solar insolation caused by changes in the Earth's orbit and by variations in solar irradiance.

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