Patterns and paleoshorelines of White Sands Dune Field, New Mexico
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The dune field at White Sands, New Mexico, shows a well-defined pattern of dunes and interdune areas, as well as spatial variations in this pattern. The purpose of this research is to determine which measured pattern parameters are most consistent across the dune field and to determine the cause of depositional spatial variability. This was accomplished using an airborne LiDAR generated digital-elevation model (DEM) collected in June 2007 and covering 39 km² of the dune field. Properties of the dune field are defined by measurements from three dune populations: 1) 110 randomly selected dunes, 2) 247 dunes along transects oriented in the net transport direction, and 3) 171 dunes from three zones within the field where differences in pattern are visible. Measurements of eight common dune parameters show that the lowest coefficients of variation occur with dune orientation and crestline sinuosity, which largely define the field pattern. Cross-plotting of parameters shows generally poor correlations, which is thought to reflect variation around field-scale means that are comparable to other dune fields globally. Removing the dunes from the LiDAR DEM reveals a depositional substrate with breaks in slope interpreted as three paleoshorelines associated with Pleistocene Lake Otero. The paleoshorelines are antecedent boundary conditions that exert the primary control on spatial variability within the dune pattern.