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This study tests the ability of a novel approach to identifying washover beds in coastal lakes. Combined X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) and cluster analysis was used to identify hurricane washover beds in sediment cores from Clam Lake on the McFaddin National Wildlife Refuge in southeastern Texas. The lake is known to contain washover beds from recent hurricanes, but the washover sediment has similar microfossil, loss-on-ignition and textural characteristics to non-washover sediment and is not readily distinguishable. Sediment cores taken from marshes surrounding the lake do contain visually-recognizable sandy washover beds of Hurricanes Ike, Rita, Carla and Audrey. XRF analysis of these washover beds, combined with cluster analysis, was used to construct "elemental fingerprints" with the potential to detect washover beds in the lake. Results are promising: multiple washover beds were detected in the lake and tentatively attributed to recent hurricanes. In some lake cores, washover beds likely to be present were not detected by the XRF/clustering technique; in other lake cores, up to nine washover beds were detected. The variation in the number of washover beds probably resulted from bio-turbation, identification of two or more washover beds in a single washover deposit, and washover beds resulting from smaller storms. Valuable outcomes of this study are; 1) it confirms the presence of washover beds in the lake; 2) it provides greater insight into the number, stratigraphic position and thickness of washover deposits; 3) it identifies periods of heightened and diminished overwash activity, and 4) it provides a means of estimating the contribution of washover deposition to sedimentation in the lake. An additional unexpected finding is that long-term sedimentation rates derived from the lake and marsh cores closely match the rate of local sea-level rise, suggesting that sea-level rise may drive sedimentation in the study area.

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