Origins of The Santa Maria And Vandenberg Coastal Dune Sheets (~100-0 ka) Under Changing Sea Levels, Shoreline Orientations and Wave Directions: Long-Term Records of Coastal Sand Supply in South-Central California, USA

  •  Curt Peterson    
  •  Christopher Ryan    
  •  Jack Meyer    
  •  David Price    
  •  Steve Hostetler    


Two large coastal dune sheets, including the Santa Maria dune sheet and Vandenberg dune sheet, have been analyzed for late-Quaternary distributions, ages and volumes of dune sand deposition. Six new thermoluminescence (TL) ages establish the age range of dune sand deposition from >106±21 ka to <4.1 ka in the study area. Seven late-Pleistocene TL and 14C dated mid-depth samples (≤30 m depth subsurface), yield a mean of 33 ka for the late-Pleistocene dune deposits. Both TL and 14C dated Holocene dune deposits establish a transition from weathered middle-Holocene dune deposits to unweathered latest-Holocene dune deposits after 4 ka. Marine sand supply to the large dune sheets occurred by 1) cross-shelf eolian transport during late-Pleistocene marine low-stands (70–13 ka), 2) shoreward wave transport during slowing of the Holocene marine transgression (9–5 ka), and 3) longshore littoral transport during the latest-Holocene marine high-sand (3.5–0 ka). Measured and dated dune deposit sections (n=66, ranging from 2 to 60 m depth) demonstrate substantial differences in preserved sand volumes between the two adjacent dune sheets, Santa Maria (~ 2,300x106 m3) and Vandenberg (~430x106 m3). Asymmetric distributions of dune deposit volumes between and within the dune sheets show that long-term sand supply was locally controlled by paleo-shoreline orientations relative to corresponding deep-water wave propagation directions (260–290° TN) from the North Pacific Low Pressure Area. Recently declining sand supplies and/or -trapping efficiencies in the dune sheet littoral subcells led to ongoing shoreline retreat (≥ 200 m) and under-cutting of late- Holocene eolian sand ramps at the south ends of the Santa Maria and Vandenberg dune sheets. The termination of transgressive cross-shelf sand supply and locally variable longshore retention of littoral sand confirm previously reported framework models of regional coastal sand supply. Such models help to identify shorelines that are most susceptible to future beach erosion from predicted sea level rise following ongoing global warming. 

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
  • ISSN(Print): 1916-9779
  • ISSN(Online): 1916-9787
  • Started: 2009
  • Frequency: semiannual

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