Geomorphic Map of Worcester County, Maryland, Interpreted from a LIDAR-Based, Digital Elevation Model

Open-File Report 2008-1005
By:  and 



A recently compiled mosaic of a LIDAR-based digital elevation model (DEM) is presented with geomorphic analysis of new macro-topographic details. The geologic framework of the surficial and near surface late Cenozoic deposits of the central uplands, Pocomoke River valley, and the Atlantic Coast includes Cenozoic to recent sediments from fluvial, estuarine, and littoral depositional environments. Extensive Pleistocene (cold climate) sandy dune fields are deposited over much of the terraced landscape. The macro details from the LIDAR image reveal 2 meter-scale resolution of details of the shapes of individual dunes, and fields of translocated sand sheets. Most terrace surfaces are overprinted with circular to elliptical rimmed basins that represent complex histories of ephemeral ponds that were formed, drained, and overprinted by younger basins. The terrains of composite ephemeral ponds and the dune fields are inter-shingled at their margins indicating contemporaneous erosion, deposition, and re-arrangement and possible internal deformation of the surficial deposits. The aggregate of these landform details and their deposits are interpreted as the products of arid, cold climate processes that were common to the mid-Atlantic region during the Last Glacial Maximum. In the Pocomoke valley and its larger tributaries, erosional remnants of sandy flood plains with anastomosing channels indicate the dynamics of former hydrology and sediment load of the watershed that prevailed at the end of the Pleistocene. As the climate warmed and precipitation increased during the transition from late Pleistocene to Holocene, dune fields were stabilized by vegetation, and the stream discharge increased. The increased discharge and greater local relief of streams graded to lower sea levels stimulated down cutting and created the deeply incised valleys out onto the continental shelf. These incised valleys have been filling with fluvial to intertidal deposits that record the rising sea level and warmer, more humid climate in the mid-Atlantic region throughout the Holocene. Thus, the geomorphic details provided by the new LIDAR DEM actually record the response of the landscape to abrupt climate change. Holocene trends and land-use patterns from Colonial to modern times can also be interpreted from the local macro- scale details of the landscape. Beyond the obvious utility of these data for land-use planning and assessments of resources and hazards, the new map presents new details on the impact of climate changes on a mid-latitude, outer Coastal plain landscape.

Additional publication details

Publication type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Title Geomorphic Map of Worcester County, Maryland, Interpreted from a LIDAR-Based, Digital Elevation Model
Series title Open-File Report
Series number 2008-1005
DOI 10.3133/ofr20081005
Edition -
Year Published 2008
Language ENGLISH
Publisher Geological Survey (U.S.)
Contributing office(s) U.S. Geological Survey
Description Report: 34 p.; 2 Plates
Online Only (Y/N) Y
Additional Online Files (Y/N) Y
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