Origins of Quaternary Coastal Dune Sheets in San Francisco and Monterey Bay, Central California Coast, U.S.A.: Reflecting Contrasts in Shelf Depocenters and Coastal Neotectonics

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Journal of Coastal Research

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The San Francisco and Monterey Bay coastal dune sheets derive from similar origins in the central California coast but differ substantially in size (respectively, ~400 and ~900 km2) and age (respectively, 1.0 Ma). The San Francisco dune sheet is restricted to a short alongshore interval (km) within a relatively straight coastline (150 km in length) that borders a broad shelf (~40 km in width). The Monterey Bay dune sheet is restricted to the Monterey Bay embayment (41 km alongshore length). The embayment includes a very narrow shelf (3–15 km in width), which is dissected by the Monterey Submarine Canyon. Generally low onshore topographic relief (elevation) likely enhanced inland transgression of Late Pleistocene dune fields in both the San Francisco and Monterey Bay areas. The locations of the dune sheets are directly related to sand accumulations in marine low-stand depocenters that supplied sand to the adjacent dune fields by eolian transport across the emerged inner shelves. The San Francisco shelf depocenter is apparently localized at a midshelf bight (−50 to −100 m elevation) that extends 25 km (east–west) offshore of a paleoriver mouth of a major river system, the Sacramento–San Joaquin River. The Monterey Bay shelf depocenter is bounded alongshore by major headlands and converging paleoshorelines (−30 to −90 m elevation) that effectively trapped littoral sand from small coastal drainages, primarily the Salinas River. High vertical rates of neotectonic deformation in the San Francisco dune sheet (0.4–1.0 mm y−1) limited dune sheet longevity and deposit thickness (5–35 m). Low uplift rates (~0.1 mm y−1) in the central Monterey Bay dune sheet permitted deposit accumulations of up to 250 m thickness. The differences in dune sheet extent, thickness, and age resulted from key differences in localized shelf accommodation space and coastal neotectonic vertical movements.



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