Optical dating has been applied to sediments preserved in Little Sippewissett Marsh, Massachusetts, USA, which are associated with overwashing of the beach barrier during hurricane strikes on the coast. The aims were to determine the hurricane landfall frequency, and make comparisons with independent age control and the historical record. Written sources of hurricane activity along the American east coast are only considered reliable back to the mid 19th century, but the sedimentary record is potentially much longer. Optical dating was applied to quartz grains extracted from thirteen samples within a sediment core from the salt-marsh. Variability in the luminescence characteristics between aliquots was observed and ~ 33% of the measured aliquots were discarded based upon the ratio of the fast component to the medium component. The majority of the samples gave normal dose distributions implying homogeneous resetting of the luminescence signal at the time of deposition, but three of the samples required application of the minimum age model (MAM). Ages ranging between 20 ± 2 and 594 ± 38 years were obtained and are broadly in agreement with independent chronologies, thus demonstrating the potential of optical dating in this setting. The hurricane record based upon optical dating extends approximately 300 years further back in time than the official National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) record. The localised nature of hurricane landfalls means that it will be necessary to collect multiple cores from a number of different sites in order to build up a complete hurricane record for this part of the coast. © 2009 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
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