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TitleBarchan dunes stabilized under recent climate warming on the northern Great Plains
AuthorWolfe, S AORCID logo; Hugenhotz, C H
SourceGeology vol. 37, no. 11, 2009 p. 1039-1042,
Alt SeriesEarth Sciences Sector, Contribution Series 20080748
PublisherGeological Society of America
Mediapaper; on-line; digital
File formatpdf
AreaCanadian Prairies
Lat/Long WENS-110.0000 -108.0000 51.0000 50.0000
Subjectssurficial geology/geomorphology; environmental geology; Nature and Environment; climate effects; climate; climatic fluctuations; dunes; dunes, parabolic; remote sensing; satellite imagery; sediment transport; transportation; sediment stability; Barchan dunes; Climate change
Illustrationslocation maps; satellite images; graphs; cross-sections
ProgramEnhancing resilience in a changing climate
Released2009 11 01
AbstractWe use light detection and ranging (LIDAR) imagery and optical stimulation luminescence dating to show that stable parabolic dunes on the Canadian prairies originated from active barchan dunes ~200 years ago. Residual dune ridges, marking former lower stoss slope positions of migrating dunes, record the transformation of barchan dunes to parabolic dunes between A.D. 1810 and 1880. Parabolic dunes stabilized by ca. A.D. 1910, with a few larger dunes and blowouts still active today. A dry, cool climate permitted sand transport to outcompete vegetation stabilization and, with lowered water tables, maintain desert-like barchan dunes with bare interdune sand sheets. These fi ndings explain why dune fi elds of the southern Canadian prairies are currently more active than those of the United States Great Plains and the observation that dunes have stabilized under twentieth century warming. Our results emphasize the importance of viewing dune fi eld responses to short-term disturbances in the context of longer-term system response, particularly when relatively modest climatic changes can cause major shifts in dune activity.

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