Ground penetrating radar studies of four representative active back-barrier dunes, combined with radiocarbon and photon-stimulated-luminescence dating techniques and soils analysis, reveal phases of alternating dune activity and stabilization along the North Carolina–Virginia coast. Two smaller dunes represent only the current phase of dune activity. Two larger dunes preserve evidence of three phases of dune development (ca. 740, 1260 and 1810 AD) and intervening phases of soil development. Climate, particularly moisture conditions, played a part in the timing of dune activity and stabilization events. All three dune phases are associated with drier conditions whereas soils formation is associated with humid conditions. Modern (phase 3) dunes are more widespread along the coast and their formation is attributed to a combination of dry conditions, increased storminess associated with the Little Ice Age, and rising sea level. Tidal inlet closing and storm overwash processes likely provided sediment point sources for individual dune masses. The longer history and much greater volume of dune sand in the area of the two larger dunes suggests a greater sediment supply in this locality.
Ground penetrating radar
Little Ice Age