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3,000 YEAR FLOOD CYCLE October 25, 2002

Posted by thenaturalist in Cycles, Floods/High Water.
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University of Vermont researchers have determined that every 3,000 years or so, great floods sweep the state. The 1927 flood, Vermont’s best known and most tragic weather event, is barely a blip in the researchers’ data. It shows up as a 1 centimeter thick layer of sediment in Ritterbush Pond in Eden, the UVM researchers found. Sediment layers that were 9 to 10 centimeters thick deposited about 2,600, 6,840, and 9,440 years ago showed up below the 1 centimeter layer, suggesting floods possibly much larger than 1927.

To get at this information, researchers stood on frozen Vermont lakes and ponds and plunged 20-foot-long pieces of PVC pipe into the bottom sediments. Then they took the pipe up, containing a sample of the layers of muck. Most of the material is organic — long decayed leaves, plants, pollen, and other material from lake vegetation or shoreline trees. But the compressed muck has layers of sand — material washed down from surrounding hills by floodwaters. An analysis of the layers revealed the roughly 3,000-year flood patterns.

The researchers have checked 13 ponds and lakes in Vermont and northern New York. All show the same pattern. Storm records from Britain, northern Europe, and central Greenland suggest that storm cycles there are similar to those in New England. (Matt Sutkoski, BFP, 10/25/02)