Under modern conditions, the Atlantic Coastal Plain province of the eastern United States is not very conducive to widespread eolian sediment mobilization because of a humid and mesothermal climate, relatively low mean surface wind velocities (~1–3 m/sec), and relatively dense vegetation. LiDAR data, however, have revealed the presence of widespread eolian dunes and sand sheets (now covered by vegetation) at many inland locations throughout the U.S. Atlantic Coastal Plain (Swezey, in press). To date, a total of 89 OSL ages ranging from ~92–5 thousand years ago (ka) have been published from these eolian sediments, and 61 of these 89 OSL ages occur within or near the interval of the last glacial maximum (LGM).
Quaternary eolian sediments have been identified in the following four inland settings of the U.S. Atlantic Coastal Plain: (1) on interfluvial upland areas of the northern coastal plain; (2) in the Carolina Sandhills region; (3) within river valleys; and (4) adjacent to low relief elliptical depressions known as Carolina Bays. Most of these eolian sediments are composed of fine to medium quartz sand, although a substantial component of silt is present in the northern coastal plain, and a substantial component of coarse sand is present in the Carolina Sandhills region.
The eolian sediments in interfluvial upland areas of the northern coastal plain (Delaware, Maryland) form both sand sheets and parabolic dunes (with dune tails pointing to the northwest). These eolian sediments in the northern upland areas were probably remobilized from any loose sediments that were available in the area, and the location near the southern margin of the LGM ice sheet is similar to extensive Quaternary eolian sand and loess deposits in Europe, China, and the central United States.
The eolian sediments in the Carolina Sandhills region form mostly sand sheets and some linear dunes of relatively short extent. These eolian sediments are thought to have been derived from sand of the immediately underlying Cretaceous fluvial strata.
The eolian sediments within river valleys form parabolic dunes that are located to the east of the modern river channels. The tails of these eolian dunes within river valleys point northwest in the northern coastal plain (Delaware, Maryland) and they point west in the southern coastal plain (North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia). These eolian sediments within river valleys are thought to have been derived from fluvial sand in the nearby river channels.
The eolian sediments associated with Carolina Bays form arcuate ridges on the east and south sides of the depressions (“bays”). Some Carolina Bays show cross-cutting relations with other Carolina Bays. Other Carolina Bays show different stratigraphic relations with respect to eolian dunes within river valleys. For example, Bear Swamp (Marion County, South Carolina) is a Carolina Bay that is inset into (i.e., younger than) eolian dunes in the valley of the Great Pee Dee River. As another example, Big Bay (Sumter County, South Carolina) is a Carolina Bay that is overlain by (i.e., older than) eolian dunes in the valley at the confluence of the Congaree and Wateree Rivers. Cores in Carolina Bays and their associated ridges reveal a few meters of sand and (or) muddy sand above an unconformity on various older fine-grained substrates that do not show signs of disturbance. Most published OSL ages from Carolina Bay sand ridges range from ~45–8 ka. Some bays have multiple sand ridges, and ridges closer to individual bays yield younger OSL ages.
In summary, Quaternary eolian sediments are widespread throughout the U.S. Atlantic Coastal Plain province, and most of these sediments are thought to have been mobilized within or near the interval of the LGM when conditions were much colder, drier, and windier. These eolian sediments are thus interpreted as relict features that have subsequently been stabilized and degraded by vegetation and pedoge