Marine & Environmental Sciences Faculty Articles



Document Type


Publication Title

Quaternary Research



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White River Badlands, Parabolic dunes, Northern Great Plains, Nebraska Sand Hills, Little Ice Age drought, Last glacial period, sUAS, Paleoclimate, Badlands National Park


The White River Badlands (WRB) of South Dakota record eolian activity spanning the late Pleistocene through the latest Holocene (21 ka to modern), reflecting the effects of the last glacial period and Holocene climate fluctuations (Holocene Thermal Maximum, Medieval Climate Anomaly, and Little Ice Age). The WRB dune fields are important paleoclimate indicators in an area of the Great Plains with few climate proxies. The goal of this study is to use 1 m/pixel-resolution digital elevation models from drone imagery to distinguish Early to Middle Holocene parabolic dunes from Late Holocene parabolic dunes. Results indicate that relative ages of dunes are distinguished by slope and roughness (terrain ruggedness index). Morphological differences are attributed to postdepositional wind erosion, soil formation, and mass wasting. Early to Middle Holocene and Late Holocene paleowind directions, 324°± 13.1° (N = 7) and 323° ± 3.0° (N = 19), respectively, are similar to the modern wind regime. Results suggest significant landscape resilience to wind erosion, which resulted in preservation of a mosaic of Early and Late Holocene parabolic dunes. Quantification of dune characteristics will help refine the chronology of eolian activity in the WRB, provide insight into drought-driven landscape evolution, and integrate WRB eolian activity in a regional paleoenvironmental context.




Data Availability Statement

Supplementary Figures 1–8 are available at:

Additional Comments

This work was supported by a Nova Southeastern University President's Faculty Research and Development Grant (no. 334801) and by the Department of Geography, Geology, and the Environment at Slippery Rock University.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

Peer Reviewed