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Late Holocene sea-level changes from grain-size data: evidence from the Gulf of Mexico

Tanner, William F.
TheHolocene 1992 v.2 no.3 pp. 249-254
Holocene epoch, beaches, energy density, models, sand, sea level, statistical analysis, storms, water power, Florida, Gulf of Mexico
Grain-size kurtosis of sand in the beach ridge plain of St. Vincent Island, Florida, is numerically reasonably uniform within any one ridge set, but changes at important set boundaries. Where these changes are found, there are also differences in air photo and field appearance and in measured ridge-set heights. Sets with low kurtosis (∼3.0) stand topographically high, and sets with higher values (∼3.6) stand low. Study of wave energy levels and beach sand grain-size kurtosis along modem Gulf of Mexico beaches shows that kurtosis is an inverse function of surf-zone energy density. Storms and storminess (for the study area) can be evaluated in the framework of the selective- transport model of May (1973); the actual data sequence is greatly different from what is required by the model, and therefore storms and storminess cannot be invoked to explain the history of the area. Instead, the data sequence matches results predicted by the model for small sea-level changes. Storms and tectonism do not have appropriate durations and rates of operation, hence did not cause changes in kurtosis across St. Vincent Island. Slow land elevation changes (warping, isostatic adjustment) do not take place repeatedly up and down like the granulometric parameters. Tidal effects, in the study area, are both much too small and too frequent to have been important. The changes in kurtosis therefore indicate water level changes, and provide a sea-level history, including three sea level drops and four rises, of 1-3 m each, since about 3000 BP. Similar results have been obtained elsewhere, so these results are not local.