Low-angle eolian deposits formed by protodune migration, and insights into slipface development at White Sands Dune Field, New Mexico Academic Article uri icon


  • © 2018 Elsevier B.V. Protodunes emerge from a flat sand bed at the upwind margin of White Sands Dune Field, and, over several hundred meters, transition into fully developed dunes. Here, we investigate spatial and temporal changes in topography across this transition from 2007 to 2016 using lidar-derived topography, structure-from-motion-derived topography, and RTK GPS. We characterize the deposits present in 2015 using ground penetrating radar. Symmetric protodunes give way downwind to an asymmetric protodune at the transition to slipface development. Between 2007 and 2016, protodune amplitude increased from 0.2 m to 4.0 m, migration rate increased from 3.2 m/yr to 6.1 m/yr, and wavelength increased from 76 m to 122 m. Ground-penetrating radar surveys show strata between flat and 15° make up the stratigraphic architecture of the protodunes. Strata increase in steepness commensurate with an increase in amplitude. Decimeter accumulations of low-angle strata associated with initial protodune stages give way to 4 m of accumulation composed of sets up to 1 m thick prior to slipface development. Topsets present in the thickest sets indicate near critical angles of bedform climb. Growth and slipface development occur by aerodynamic sand trapping and protodune merging. Changes in asymmetry erase initial slipfaces prior to permanent slipface development, after which efficient sand trapping and scour promotes the transition to a dune across 20 m in 5 years. Protodune stratification has hallmarks of sandsheet stratification and can be appreciated within the greater suite of processes that create low-angle eolian stratification found in modern and ancient environments.

altmetric score

  • 1

author list (cited authors)

  • Phillips, J. D., Ewing, R. C., Bowling, R., Weymer, B. A., Barrineau, P., Nittrouer, J. A., & Everett, M. E.

citation count

  • 12

publication date

  • February 2019