Dating of megaflood deposits in the Russian Altai using rock surface luminescence

Daria V. Semikolennykh*, Alastair C. Cunningham, Redzhep N. Kurbanov, Andrei V. Panin, Ivan D. Zolnikov, Evgeny V. Deev, Andrew S. Murray

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


Catastrophic drainage of ice-dammed lakes in the Altai Mountains has been inferred from geomorphological evidence in the Katun Valley (Russia), and is presumed to have occurred during the Pleistocene. The sedimentary features have been difficult to date directly, due to the absence of organic carbon, and the improbability that luminescence signals in sand grains would be reset during transport. However, the development of rock-surface luminescence dating provides a new opportunity to date the features: clasts have a different transport history to sand grains, and their luminescence depth profiles can be inspected for evidence of bleaching before burial. Here we investigate two sites in the Altai Mountains, and use rock-surface luminescence burial dating to constrain the age of the megaflood deposits. In the Katun Valley, we sampled granite cobbles from a frozen sediment clast emplaced as a dropstone within a massive megaflood gravel terrace. Burial ages for the clasts range from 16.7 to 21.4 ka, with a mean age of 19.8 ± 1.5 ka. This represents the depositional age of the fluvial sediments that preceded the lake outburst flood, (and hence places a maximum age on the catastrophic flood). Clasts sampled from mega-ripples in the Kurai Basin are shown to have a mid-to-late Holocene burial age, which is not consistent with the possible origin of these features during a catastrophic drainage of a glacier-dammed lake. Instead, the burial age of the Kurai Basin sediments may reflect local-scale periglacial or seismic processes along the Kurai Fault Zone.

Original languageEnglish
Article number101373
JournalQuaternary Geochronology
Number of pages9
Publication statusPublished - 2022


  • Holocene
  • Megaflood deposits
  • Palaeoearthquake
  • Pleistocene
  • Rock surface dating
  • Russian Altai


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