Uncovering Hurricane Harvey’s storm deposition in the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge, Texas

Authors: Kam-Biu Liu*, Department of Oceanography and Coastal Sciences, Louisiana State University, Qiang Yao, Department of Oceanography and Coastal Sciences, Louisiana State University, Harry F. Williams, Department of Geography and the Environment, University of North Texas, Junghyung Ryu, Department of Oceanography and Coastal Sciences, Louisiana State University
Topics: Coastal and Marine, Paleoenvironmental Change, Hazards and Vulnerability
Keywords: Hurricane Harvey, storm deposits, storm surge, paleotempestology
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/3/2019
Start / End Time: 2:35 PM / 4:15 PM
Room: Stones Throw 1 - Granite, Marriott, Lobby Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

Hurricane Harvey made landfall near Aransas Bay, Texas, as a category 4 storm in August 2017, causing storm tide inundation of 4–6 feet in the estuaries and bays along the low-lying coast. We retrieved 18 sediment cores from the coastal wetlands in Aransas National Wildlife Refuge, the “ground zero” of the storm’s impact, to study the character and distribution of Harvey’s storm deposition. Most cores contain a sand layer at the top that could be attributed to the storm surge generated by Harvey. The thickness of the sand layer varies from a few centimeters up to ~10 cm, and typically contain relatively high concentrations of Ca and Sr. They are characterized by high values of two chemical elemental ratios—Ca/Ti and Cl/Br, suggesting that seawater intrusion by storm surge was the primary mechanism for their deposition. The results contrast with those we reported earlier from the San Bernard NWR to the east, where fluvial or freshwater flooding was the primary depositional mechanism. Older sand layers seem to be present in some of the cores from Aransas NWR, possibly recording the occurrence of some historic or prehistoric storm events for the central coasts of Texas.

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