Late Quaternary Catastrophic Flooding in the Altai Mountains of South–Central Siberia: A Synoptic Overview and an Introduction to Flood Deposit Sedimentology

  1. I. Peter Martini5,
  2. Victor R. Baker6 and
  3. Guillermina Garzón7
  1. P. A. Carling1,
  2. A. D. Kirkbride2,
  3. S. Parnachov3,
  4. P. S. Borodavko3 and
  5. G. W. Berger4

Published Online: 17 MAR 2009

DOI: 10.1002/9781444304299.ch2

Flood and Megaflood Processes and Deposits: Recent and Ancient Examples

Flood and Megaflood Processes and Deposits: Recent and Ancient Examples

How to Cite

Carling, P. A., Kirkbride, A. D., Parnachov, S., Borodavko, P. S. and Berger, G. W. (2002) Late Quaternary Catastrophic Flooding in the Altai Mountains of South–Central Siberia: A Synoptic Overview and an Introduction to Flood Deposit Sedimentology, in Flood and Megaflood Processes and Deposits: Recent and Ancient Examples (eds I. P. Martini, V. R. Baker and G. Garzón), Blackwell Publishing Ltd., Oxford, UK. doi: 10.1002/9781444304299.ch2

Editor Information

  1. 5

    Department of Land Resource Science, University of Guelph, Guelph, Ontario, Canada

  2. 6

    Department of Hydrology and Water Resources, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ 85721–0011, USA

  3. 7

    Dpto de Geodinámica, Fac. de Geología, Universidad of Complutense, 28040 Madrid, Spain

Author Information

  1. 1

    Department of Geography, Highfield, University of Southampton, SO17 1BJ, UK

  2. 2

    Département de Géographie, CP 6128 Succ. Centre Ville, Montreal, Québec H3C 3J7, Canada

  3. 3

    Department of Geology and Geography, Tomsk State University, 634050 Tomsk, Russia

  4. 4

    Quaternary Sciences Center, Desert Research Institute, 2215 Raggio Parkway, Reno, NV 89512–1095, USA

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 17 MAR 2009
  2. Published Print: 10 FEB 2002

ISBN Information

Print ISBN: 9780632064045

Online ISBN: 9781444304299

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Keywords:

  • late quaternary catastrophic flooding in Altai mountains of south–central Siberia - introduction to flood deposit sedimentology;
  • main depositional associations;
  • gravel dunes and sand dunes;
  • lacustrine successions;
  • terrace successions;
  • preliminary interpretation of depositional associations

Summary

This paper provides an overview of the geography and palaeogeography of the Chuja (Chuya)–Katun river system in the Altai Mountains of south Siberia. In addition, an introduction to the sedimentology of catastrophic flood deposits is provided. Tracts of large gravel dunes and giant gravel bars in the Katun and Chuja river valleys of south-central Siberia are testimony to episodes of catastrophic flooding that occurred owing to the sudden emptying of the ice-impounded glacial lake Kuray–Chuja primarily during the Late Pleistocene (40 ka to 13 ka). Although today there are no substantial water bodies in the Kuray and Chuja basins, glaciolacustrine deposits attest to the former presence of large ice-proximal lakes, whereas multiple strandlines at various elevations around the basin margins indicate former lake levels. Floods were of a scale similar to that recorded for glacial-lake Missoula in North America. A large flood down the main Chuja and Katun river valleys deposited huge quantities of coarse and fine gravels within back-flooded tributary mouths and other valley-side embayments. Today these deposits form giant bars that blanket the valley walls and block each tributary entrance for a distance of over 70 km. While the bars were being deposited, the base of the main valley was infilled to a depth of 60–90 m by coarse-gravel traction deposits. In particular coarse gravel bedload and hyperconcentrated-flow units prograded down-valley beneath flood waters several hundred metres deep. Locally, steeply cross-stratified units, each several decimetres thick attest to steep bar-front progradation similar in style to a Gilbert-type delta.

During individual floods, fine gravel and coarse sand, mostly transported in suspension, was deposited by multiple flood pulses in the entrance to flooded tributaries. The resultant giant bars, up to 5 km long and 120 m in height, temporarily impounded lakes in the tributaries, indicated by local small-scale limnic deposits. Subsequently, tributary streams cut through the bars, draining the small lakes and incising the lacustrine deposits. Later floods down the main river valley again blocked the tributaries with flood gravels such that lakes reformed.