A Geologic Characterization of the Alongshore Variability in Beach-Dune Morphology: Padre Island National Seashore, Texas
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The alongshore variability of beach-dune systems and the response and recovery from extreme storms remains poorly understood. The height and extent of foredunes along barrier islands varies over a range of spatial scales, implying that during extreme storms, the beach-dune system should respond in different ways depending on the elevation and volume of the dunes relative to the storm surge. The purpose of this study is to use Ground-Penetrating Radar (GPR) and vibra-cores to investigate the internal structure of small, intermediate and large dunes along a 2.5 km transect of beach in Padre Island National Seashore, TX with particular attention to storm impacts. A series of dune normal and parallel GPR profiles were collected to capture the variation in beach-dune morphology at the three sites. Site locations were chosen along a transition from dissipative to intermediate beach states. Following the Sallenger (2000) storm impact model, the small dune is defined by low-lying topography that is susceptible to overwash and inundation depending on the size of the storm surge. The large dune is characteristic of the “collision regime”, while the intermediate dune represents a transition between “overwash” and “collision regimes”, with the underlying assumption that all three dunes would be impacted by the same level of surge during a single storm event. Results from the GPR survey suggest that each site contains a bright, laterally continuous radar reflector that is interpreted with the aid of the sedimentary data as an erosional layer. Different characteristic radar facies and sequence boundaries provide evidence as to how each dune evolved through and after the storm. Results from XRF scans and grain size analysis show a direct comparison between the GPR reflectors at the storm surface and spikes in calcium counts from XRF scans to distinct changes in grain size parameters at the same depth. It is argued that the location of each shell layer corresponds to a storm surface generated during a single storm, which means it is possible to interpret different recovery mechanisms. The presence of the storm layer across the backbeach and dunes provides evidence for the height and extent of the surge during the storm event. The data suggests that the small dune was overtopped by the surge, experiencing minimal erosion and recovery. The intermediate dune was completely eroded by the surge, but showed the greatest recovery of all the dune sites. The large dune was scoured at the base with marginal impact along its crest and shows minimal recovery after the storm. These results suggest that the evolution (i.e., transgression) of a barrier island varies considerably over short distances.
Weymer, Bradley (2012). A Geologic Characterization of the Alongshore Variability in Beach-Dune Morphology: Padre Island National Seashore, Texas. Master's thesis, Texas A&M University. Available electronically from