The impact of recent climate change on flooding and sediment supply within a Mediterranean mountain catchment, southwestern Crete, Greece

G. S. Maas, Mark G. Macklin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This paper presents work from a geomorphological investigation carried out in the Aradena Gorge, southwestern Crete, Greece. The gorge is typical of many steepland fluvial systems in the Mediterranean, with steep relief, coarse-gravel sediments and high rates of sedimentation generated during intense winter storm events. Hillslope deposits and coarse-gravel flood units within a 5 km section of the gorge have been mapped. dated (using lichenometry and dendrochronology), and their sedimentological characteristics recorded to establish a c. 200-year record of flood frequency/magnitude and hillslope/channel sediment supply variability. This record has been compared with instrumented and previously published records of climate change from Crete and the Mediterranean region and used to establish the major controls on flooding and sediment dynamics Within the Aradena Gorge. Rates of colluviation and sediment delivery to the channel appear to have been greater than the present sometime before C. AD 1800 and may be related to cooler climates with a more seasonal precipitation regime during the Little Ice Age (C. AD 1450 to 1850). In gorge sections where the present rate of sediment supply from hillslope colluvium is very low, the channel has incised into older alluvial and colluvial deposits. Conversely, in the few sections where sediment supply is currently very high, the channel is aggrading with a braided pattern. Major rock-fall deposits at certain locations in the gorge have restricted any major downstream sediment transfer. Twelve periods of increased flooding during the, last 150 years have been identified and these correlate quite well with negative or declining phases of the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO). Analysis of daily precipitation data from Crete suggests negative phases of the winter NAO are characterized by an increase in the number of long-duration, high-intensity storms. These storms, particularly those with five-day and greater duration. appear to be significant in triggering major floods in the Aradena Gorge. During the last 40 years the NAO index has been increasing and become locked into a positive phase. As a consequence of this, major flooding appears to have declined during the same period. Copyright (C) 2002 John Wiley Sons, Ltd.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1087-1105
Number of pages19
JournalEarth Surface Processes and Landforms
Publication statusPublished - 18 Oct 2011


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