Definition and origin of the dune-field pattern at White Sands, New Mexico Academic Article uri icon


  • 2014 Elsevier B.V. A LiDAR-derived digital elevation model (DEM) of a representative portion of the White Sands Dune Field, New Mexico, allows for characterization of an unprecedented range of dune-field parameters and serves as a basis for pattern analysis. Dune-field parameters were measured and statistically analyzed for populations of dunes selected at random and occurring along transects. Populations sampled by these two different methods are comparable, but highlight the sensitivity of transect placement in a dune field that has pattern heterogeneity. Based upon coefficients of variation, pattern emerges at White Sands primarily because of a strong fabric of crestline orientation, and secondarily because of the regularity of spacing between dunes of similar shape as defined by sinuosity, height and length. Linear regression of dune parameters shows that dune geometric relationships vary primarily with crestline length, but there is little correlation between other parameters, including dune spacing and height. This result highlights the sensitivity of identifying topographic heterogeneity in a LiDAR-derived DEM, given that mean ratios conform to global averages. Stripping off the dunes in Matlab shows a terraced surface, which is interpreted to represent paleo-shorelines formed during relative still stands in the overall retreat of Lake Otero. Elevated bands of higher, more closely spaced dunes occur just leeward of the paleo-shorelines. A revised model for the White Sands Dune Field consists of the basinward progradation of successive dune-field segments. Each segment is associated with a paleo-shoreline, and consists of an upwind dune ridge, represented by the elevated bands, and a leeward dune field.

published proceedings


author list (cited authors)

  • Baitis, E., Kocurek, G., Smith, V., Mohrig, D., Ewing, R. C., & Peyret, A.

citation count

  • 37

complete list of authors

  • Baitis, Elke||Kocurek, Gary||Smith, Virginia||Mohrig, David||Ewing, Ryan C||Peyret, A-PB

publication date

  • January 2014