Effect of climate change in the stabilization and prevailing aeolian activity of a coastal dune (Traba, NW Spain)

Gonzalez-Villanueva R., Costas S., Pérez-Arlucea M., Jerez S., Trigo R. M.
Geomorphology, 185, 96-119

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Dunes in temperate latitudes have experienced a significant stabilization in recent times, essentially as a consequence of the expansion of dense vegetation cover. Yet, the causes for this gradual stabilization as well as the causes promoting antecedent aeolianmobilization remain poorly understood. The Traba coastal dune field, located in NW Spain, was examined to explore the causes inducing aeolian activity and subsequent stabilization since 1940. Morphological changes were identified through the combination of aerial photographs and geophysical techniques. Local wind field regimes were simulated using a regional climate model to obtain the variability of the most relevant modes of atmospheric circulation in the North Atlantic and European regions; North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO), Eastern Atlantic (EA) and Scandinavian (SCAND). This allows us to identify the impact of these circulation modes over dune dynamics. Results document an episode of aeolian activity during the 1950s followed by a gradual stabilization and fixation of the dune coincident with a decrease on storm and wind intensity. Yet, aeolian sandmovement remained active in small areas (blowouts), occurring mainly during the summer. NE winds associated with a negative phase of the EA explain the movement of sand within the dune field under favorable conditions of sand supply. On the other hand, sand supply to the dune field from the beach was promoted by NW winds coincident with the summer negative phase of NAO. During winter, the negative NAO favored frequent SW winds associated with the passage of intense storms, which in turn explain sand remobilization from the beach making sediment available for the NW winds to blow inland. With this work, it is proven that to understand past and future aeolian activity requires critical consideration of the variability and impact of the two principal modes of atmospheric circulation in the North Atlantic (NAO and EA). The SCANDmode explaining a lower percentage of the localwind field variabilitywas also included to achieve higher significance levels of explained variance.