HOLOCENE RECORD OF HURRICANE LANDFALL IN BAFFIN BAY, TEXAS
Authors:Angela Roman, Lauren Simkins
Mentor:Alexander Simms, Assistant Professor of Earth Science, University of California Santa Barbara
Hurricanes have recently caused extreme damage to coastal populations along the Gulf of Mexico. Historical records of hurricane events are limited thus obtaining hurricane records beyond historical documentation are important for determining whether the frequency of hurricanes has varied significantly in the past and what other climate drivers lead to more frequent hurricanes. We aim to reconstruct the occurrence of hurricane landfall within Baffin Bay, along the northwestern Gulf of Mexico. Baffin Bay, Texas is an estuary isolated from the Gulf of Mexico by Padre Island and Laguna Madre. Hurricanes striking the Texas coast accumulate overwash material in the storm surge from Padre Island and deposit that material further inland in coastal environments. We use grain-size analysis: (1) determine the grain-size characteristics of overwash material from Padre Island in order to define hurricane deposits within Baffin Bay; and (2) reconstruct hurricane events within Baffin Bay. Initial results from overwash sediment sourced from Padre Island suggest hurricane deposits preserved within Baffin Bay contain approximately 90% sand with a peak in diameter at 150µm. Grain-size measurements are currently being conducted on a 17-meter sediment core from Baffin Bay. The timing of hurricane events will be determined using the grain-size distribution of overwash deposits as a proxy for hurricane landfall within Baffin Bay as well as an age-depth model derived from radiocarbon dated-material within the core. Our reconstruction of hurricane landfall during the Holocene in Baffin Bay will be compared with existing climate records in order to determine controlling factors in hurricane genesis.