Synthesis on Quaternary aeolian research in the unglaciated eastern United States

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Abstract

Late-middle and late Pleistocene, and Holocene, inland aeolian sand and loess blanket >90,000km 2 of the unglaciated eastern United States of America (USA). Deposits are most extensive in the Lower Mississippi Valley (LMV) and Atlantic Coastal Plain (ACP), areas presently lacking significant aeolian activity. They provide evidence of paleoclimate intervals when wind erosion and deposition were dominant land-altering processes. This study synthesizes available data for aeolian sand deposits in the LMV, the Eastern Gulf Coastal Plain (EGCP) and the ACP, and loess deposits in the Middle Atlantic Coastal Plain (MACP). Data indicate: (a) the most recent major aeolian activity occurred in response to and coincident with growth and decay of the Laurentide Ice Sheet (LIS); (b) by ~40ka, aeolian processes greatly influenced landscape evolution in all three regions; (c) aeolian activity peaked in OIS2; (d) OIS3 and OIS2 aeolian records are in regional agreement with paleoecological records; and (e) limited aeolian activity occurred in the Holocene (EGCP and ACP). Paleoclimate and atmospheric-circulation models (PCMs/ACMs) for the last glacial maximum (LGM) show westerly winter winds for the unglaciated eastern USA, but do not resolve documented W and SW winds in the SEACP and WNW and N winds in the MACP. The minimum areal extent of aeolian deposits in the EGCP and ACP is ~10,000km 2. For the LMV, it is >80,000km 2. Based on these estimates, published PCMs/ACMs likely underrepresent the areal extent of LGM aeolian activity, as well as the extent and complexity of climatic changes during this interval.

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Markewich, H. W., Litwin, R. J., Wysocki, D. A., & Pavich, M. J. (2015). Synthesis on Quaternary aeolian research in the unglaciated eastern United States. Aeolian Research, 17, 139–191. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.aeolia.2015.01.011

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