Impacts of climate change on the formation and stability of late Quaternary sand sheets and falling dunes, Black Mesa region, southern Colorado Plateau, USA

Quaternary International
By: , and 

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Abstract

Detailed geomorphic mapping and analysis of soil-stratigraphy and optically stimulated luminescence (OSL) dating of eolian sand dunes on Black Mesa, Arizona, reveal eolian sediment deposition occurred from 30 to 16 ka, followed by a period of widespread dune stabilization from 12 to 8 ka. Localized reactivation of the previously stabilized dune forms or local changes in sediment supply have occurred in the middle to late Holocene in this region. Cooler, wetter, and more variable climatic conditions during MIS 3 and 2 led to increased channel and floodplain sediment supply. Eolian sediment derived from these sources was transported up to 60 km. Deposition of this material has reduced regional topographic roughness by filling tributary canyon ‘traps’ oriented perpendicular to the dominant wind and sediment transport direction. Topographically controlled falling dunes and sand ramps in this region are preserved because of their geomorphic position and provide evidence of the paleoenvironmental state of the fluvial and eolian systems before, during, and immediately after the last glacial maximum on the southern Colorado Plateau.

Widely used predictive models of eolian system dynamics are typically based entirely on climatic variables and do not account for landscape complexity and geomorphic history. Climate-only assumptions fail to give accurate predictions of the dynamics of this and many other dune fields. A growing body of work suggests that eolian deposits in wind-driven semiarid climates may be more strongly related to increases in sediment supply than to increases in aridity.

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Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Impacts of climate change on the formation and stability of late Quaternary sand sheets and falling dunes, Black Mesa region, southern Colorado Plateau, USA
Series title Quaternary International
DOI 10.1016/j.quaint.2014.10.015
Volume 362
Year Published 2015
Language English
Publisher Elsevier
Contributing office(s) Crustal Geophysics and Geochemistry Science Center
Description 21 p.
First page 87
Last page 107
Conference Title 9th New World Luminescence Dating Workshop
Conference Location Logan, UT
Conference Date August 16-18, 2013
Country United States
State Arizona
Other Geospatial Black Mesa, Colorado Plateau
Online Only (Y/N) N
Additional Online Files (Y/N) N
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