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Techniques for GIS Modeling of Coastal Dunes

ASU Author/Contributor (non-ASU co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Jeff Colby, Associate Professor (Creator)
Appalachian State University (ASU )
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Abstract: Coastal dunes present a unique problem to coastal scientists because of the dynamic nature of most coastal dune systems. Coastal dunes can change shape quickly and frequently due to storm-generated winds and waves. Prevailing winds can transport significant amounts of sand throughout the dune system. Topographic and volumetric changes in a 150×40 m site on the Outer Banks of North Carolina were assessed through a series of monthly field surveys conducted over a 1-year period from May 1997 to May 1998. This paper discusses the Geographic Information System (GIS) methodology used for data acquisition and analysis and presents one methodology developed to measure 3-D dune morphodynamics using a 2-D and 3-D GIS. It serves as a guide for other coastal researchers who may have limited surveying or GIS experience. Issues concerning sampling routine, data density and grid cell size are discussed. The methodology followed results in the production of a grid of interpolated elevation values that can be represented in a variety of ways, including as topographic maps, digital elevation models (DEM) or two-dimensional cross-sections of the dune system. The grid from the May 1998 survey is subtracted from the May 1997 grid to obtain elevation change information that in turn can be represented graphically. The results of the analysis show that volumetric change over the 1-year period was dominated by erosion along the seaward face of the dune. The monthly surveys show that this erosion was the result of two northeasters in January and February 1998. The loss of volume is partially compensated for by accumulation to the rear of the foredune ridge, primarily in locations where blowouts facilitate aeolian transport of sediment from the beach. The implication is that the dune system is eroding rapidly due to storm activity. It also suggests that there is a mechanism for offsetting some of the volumetric loss through aeolian transport into the dune system.

Additional Information

Andrews, B., Gares, P.A., and Colby, J.D. (2002) Techniques for GIS Modeling of Coastal Dunes. Geomorphology, 48:289-308. Published by Elsevier (ISSN: 1872-695X).
Language: English
Date: 2002