2008 Joint Meeting of The Geological Society of America, Soil Science Society of America, American Society of Agronomy, Crop Science Society of America, Gulf Coast Association of Geological Societies with the Gulf Coast Section of SEPM

Paper No. 4
Presentation Time: 9:05 AM

Sand Seas and Dune Fields of the World. A Digital Atlas

LANCASTER, Nick, Desert Research Institute, 2215 Raggio Parkway, Reno, NV 89512, nick@dri.edu

Sand seas and dune fields contain the majority of aeolian sand in arid and semi-arid areas in low and mid latitudes. Their construction has been influenced by climatic, tectonic, and sea level changes that have affected sand supply, availability, and mobility, as well as the preservation of deposits and landforms from prior episodes of aeolian construction. Sand seas and dunefields therefore provide an archive of the effects of climate change in arid regions including unique data on past wind directions. Understanding the history of sand seas and dunes has been revolutionized in recent years by the application of luminescence techniques to directly date periods of dune formation and/or reactivation.

Despite their significance and wide geographical extent, there is no complete and accurate global map of these dune fields, although the location and general extent of individual sand seas and dune fields are depicted in many publications. An increasing number of local and regional studies using OSL dating has taken place in recent years, so providing the possibility to develop regional and multi-regional chronologies of periods of dune formation and understand how they have responded to Quaternary changes in climate and sea level, manifested by changes in sediment supply, availability, and mobility.

To address these issues, we are developing a community based global database of geographically accurate maps of individual desert and other inland dunefields and sand seas using GIS methods. Information on the database is at: http://www.dees.dri.edu/Projects/Dune_Atlas/

The map database incorporates information on dune morphology, including dune trends, dune stratigraphy, and dune chronology, so enabling regional and global correlation of periods of dune formation via construction of time-slice maps of dune development and extent. These compilations will be available for regional and global paleoclimate reconstructions using gridded data, and will include data on dune trends for paleowind assessments.