Origin of late Quaternary dune fields on the Southern High Plains of Texas and New Mexico

D. R. Muhs, Vance T Holliday

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

52 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Mostly stabilized late Holocene eolian sands on the Southern High Plains of the United States were studied to determine their origins and to assess whether present dune stability depends more strongly on sediment supply, sediment availability, or transport limitations. Geomorphic, sedimentological, and geochemical trends indicate that late Holocene dunes formed under westerly paleowinds, broadly similar to those of today. Mineralogical and geochemical data indicate that the most likely source for the sands is not the Pecos River valley, but the Pleistocene Blackwater Draw Formation, an older, extensive eolian deposit in the region. These observations suggest that new sand is supplied whenever vegetation cover is diminished to the extent that the Blackwater Draw Formation can be eroded, in agreement with modern observations of wind erosion in the region. We conclude, therefore, that Southern High Plains dunes are stabilized primarily due to a vegetation cover. The dunes are thus sediment-availability limited. This conclusion is consistent with the observation that, in the warmest, driest part of the region (where vegetation cover is minimal), dunes are currently active over a large area. Geochemical data indicate that Southern High Plains dunes are the most mineralogically mature (quartz rich) sands yet studied in the Great Plains, which suggests a long history of eolian activity, either in the dune fields or during deposition of the Blackwater Draw Formation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)75-87
Number of pages13
JournalBulletin of the Geological Society of America
Volume113
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 2001
Externally publishedYes

Fingerprint

dune field
dune
vegetation cover
sand
Holocene
sediment
eolian process
eolian deposit
wind erosion
westerly
plain
Pleistocene
quartz
valley
history
river

Keywords

  • Blackwater Draw Formation
  • Dunes
  • Geochemistry
  • New Mexico
  • Pecos River
  • Provenance
  • Texas

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)

Cite this

Origin of late Quaternary dune fields on the Southern High Plains of Texas and New Mexico. / Muhs, D. R.; Holliday, Vance T.

In: Bulletin of the Geological Society of America, Vol. 113, No. 1, 01.2001, p. 75-87.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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