The Fluvial Record of Climate Change

M. G. Macklin, John Lewin, J. C. Woodward

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119 Citations (SciVal)


Fluvial landforms and sediments can be used to reconstruct past hydrological conditions over different time scales once allowance has been made for tectonic, base-level and human complications. Field stratigraphic evidence is explored here at three time scales: the later Pleistocene, the Holocene, and the historical and instrumental period. New data from a range of field studies demonstrate that Croll–Milankovitch forcing, Dansgaard–Oeschger and Heinrich events, enhanced monsoon circulation, millennial- to centennial-scale climate variability within the Holocene (probably associated with solar forcing and deep ocean circulation) and flood-event variability in recent centuries can all be discerned in the fluvial record. Although very significant advances have been made in river system and climate change research in recent years, the potential of fluvial palaeohydrology has yet to be fully realized, to the detriment of climatology, public health, resource management and river engineering.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2143-2172
JournalPhilosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences
Issue number1966
Early online date01 Apr 2012
Publication statusPublished - 13 May 2012


  • climate change
  • fluvial sediments
  • palaeohydrology
  • floods
  • rivers


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