The Palaeoflood record of the Gardon River, France: A comparison with the extreme 2002 flood event

Nathan A. Sheffer*, Mayte Rico, Yehouda Enzel, Gerardo Benito, Tamir Grodek

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

71 Scopus citations


A paleoflood study in the Gardon River gorge in southern France identified extreme floods larger than any modern or historically gauged flood. During the course of our study, an extreme flood on the 8-9th of September 2002 claimed the lives of 21 people and caused millions of Euros worth of damage to the towns and villages along the river. The magnitude of this flood was larger than any known historical flood on record,. However, there is evidence of greater magnitude flood events in the form of slack-water flood deposits preserved in caves elevated 17-19 m above the normal base flow, and up to 3 m above the level reached by the 2002 floodwaters. The stratigraphy and radiocarbon dating show that at least five extreme events occurred during the past 500 years. The discharge estimation associated with these flood units, achieved using the HEC-RAS one dimensional model, indicates that at least three floods were bracketed by discharges between 6850 and 7100 m3 s- 1, and at least two floods reached a magnitude above 8000 m3 s- 1. Therefore, the extraordinary flood of 2002 was not the largest in the basin.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)71-83
Number of pages13
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - 1 Jun 2008

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This project was totally funded by the European Commission, proposal EVG1-1999-00039 (SPHERE project). The authors wish to thank Francios Bressand of the D.D.E., Nîmes, for the topographical maps, historical flood data and fruitful discussion; and especially Raymond Liria of the D.D.E., Nîmes for doing the bathymetric cross sections and assisting in field work; Nicolas Waldmann and Yossi Polak for their help in fieldwork.


  • Paleoflood hydrology, Slackwater flood deposits, Floods, Hydraulic modeling, Historical floods, Gardon River (France)


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