Sedimentary records of coastal storm surges: Evidence of the 1953 North Sea event

Graeme T. Swindles*, Jennifer M. Galloway, Andrew L. Macumber, Ian W. Croudace, Andy R. Emery, Clare Woulds, Mark D. Bateman, Lauren Parry, Julie M. Jones, Katherine Selby, Greg T. Rushby, Andy J. Baird, Sarah A. Woodroffe, Natasha L.M. Barlow

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Citations (Scopus)
75 Downloads (Pure)


The expression of storm events in the geological record is poorly understood; therefore, stratigraphic investigations of known events are needed. The 1953 North Sea storm surge was the largest natural disaster for countries bordering the southern North Sea during the twentieth century. We characterize the spatial distribution of a sand deposit from the 1953 storm surge in a salt marsh at Holkham, Norfolk (UK). Radionuclide measurements, core scanning X-ray fluorescence (Itrax), and particle size analyses, were used to date and characterise the deposit. The deposit occurs at the onset of detectable 137Cs - coeval with the first testing of nuclear weapons in the early 1950s. The sand layer is derived from material eroded from beach and dunes on the seaward side of the salt marsh. After the depositional event, accumulation of finer-grained silt and clay materials resumed. This work has important implications for understanding the responses of salt marshes to powerful storms and provides a near-modern analogue of storm surge events for calibration of extreme wave events in the geological record.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)262-270
Number of pages9
JournalMarine Geology
Publication statusPublished - 01 Sept 2018


  • Cs dating
  • 1953 storm
  • Core scanning X-ray fluorescence
  • North sea
  • Salt marsh
  • Sedimentology
  • Storm surge

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oceanography
  • Geology
  • Geochemistry and Petrology


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