Spatial-temporal evolution of aeolian blowout dunes at cape cod

Kimia C. Abhar, Ian J. Walker, Patrick A. Hesp, Paul A. Gares

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

37 Scopus citations


This paper explores historical evolution of blowouts at Cape Cod National Seashore (CCNS), USA - a site that hosts one of the world's highest densities of active and stabilized blowouts. The Spatial-Temporal Analysis of Moving Polygons (STAMP) method is applied to a multi-decadal dataset of aerial photography and LiDAR to extract patterns of two-dimensional movement and morphometric changes in erosional deflation basins and depositional lobes. Blowout development in CCNS is characterized by several geometric (overlap) and movement (proximity) responses, including: i) generation and disappearance, ii) extension and contraction, iii) union or division, iv) clustering and v) divergence by stabilization. Other possible movement events include migration, amalgamation and proximal stabilization, but they were not observed in this study. Generation events were more frequent than disappearance events; the former were highest between 1985 and 1994, while the latter were highest between 2000 and 2005. High rates of areal change in erosional basins occurred between 1998 and 2000 (+3932m2a-1), the lowest rate (+333m2a-1) between 2005 and 2009, and the maximum rate (+4589m2a-1) between 2009 and 2011. Union events occurred mostly in recent years (2000-2012), while only one division was observed earlier (1985-1994). Net areal changes of lobes showed gradual growth from a period of contraction (-1119m2a-1) between 1998 and 2000 to rapid extension (+2030m2a-1) by 2010, which is roughly concurrent with rapid growth of erosional basins between 2005 and 2009. Blowouts extended radially in this multi-modal wind regime and, despite odd shapes initially, they became simpler in form (more circular) and larger over time. Net extension of erosional basins was toward ESE (109°) while depositional lobes extended SSE (147°). Lobes were aligned with the strongest (winter) sand drift vector although their magnitude of areal extension was only 33% that of the basins. These differences in extension responses likely result from more complex and evolving flow-form interactions inside erosional basins. Historical photographs and CCNS documents suggest that blowout evolution may be influenced by land-use changes, such as revegetation campaigns in 1985 that were followed by high blowout generation. High magnitude regional storm events (e.g., hurricanes) also play a role. The analytical framework presented provides a systematic means for two-dimensional geomorphic change detection and pattern analysis that can be applied to other landscapes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)148-162
Number of pages15
StatePublished - May 1 2015


  • Aeolian
  • Blowout
  • Dune
  • GIS
  • Landscape evolution
  • Spatial-temporal analysis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Earth-Surface Processes


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