Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, Department of


Date of this Version



Published in Fisher, T.G., and Hansen, E.C., eds., Coastline and Dune Evolution along the Great Lakes, Geological Society of America Special Paper 508 (2014); doi:10.1130/2014.2508(04).


Copyright © 2014 The Geological Society of America. Used by permission.


The youngest dune belt along Lake Michigan’s southern coast evolved through four stages. The first stage began during the Nipissing transgression, ~6.0 ka, and culminated at the Nipissing high, ~4.5 ka. Rising lake levels eroded the lake margins and generated sediment that was transported to southern Lake Michigan, creating the Tolleston barrier beach. The second stage, beginning ~4.5 ka with a rapid lake level fall and continuing to ~3.0 ka, represents a major episode of transgressive parabolic dune field development. Large, simple parabolic dunes, with easterly apices (85–105° azimuth) suggestive of westerly wind formation, developed in a sand belt ~1–2 km wide. The third stage, from ~3.0 to 1.0 ka, was characterized by strandplain progradation and transverse ridge development west of Miller, Indiana, and dune stabilization creating the Holland Paleosol east of Miller. Sporadic blowout activity from strong westerly winds redistributed the sand within the dune field, amalgamating simple dune forms into compound, rake-like, and nested parabolic dunes. The fourth and youngest stage, beginning ~1.0 ka, represents blowout development in a southeasterly direction (120–135° azimuth), indicating a wind direction shift to the northwest. Blowouts, whether developed in transverse ridges or in the northern arms of parabolic dunes, occur closest to the lake. The timing of this blowout initiation coincides with a rise in the level of Lake Michigan. However, a more likely development and maintenance mechanism for these dunes is increased storminess with strong northerly and northwesterly winds during the cooler months of the year.