Delineating spatial distribution and thickness of unconsolidated sand along the southwest Lake Michigan shoreline using TEM and ERT geophysical methods

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Abstract

Erosion and accretion of various magnitudes occur along the southwest Lake Michigan shoreline. These processes are triggered by natural events and human activities, which affect the distribution and thickness of sand on the nearshore lake bottom. Significant erosion along the Illinois coastline has highlighted the need for a large-scale means of acquiring spatially rich data to build models of sand distribution along the entire shoreline. Thus, we implemented a high-resolution airborne transient electromagnetic (TEM) method, coupled with a ground-based electrical resistivity tomography (ERT) method to determine the sand distribution and thickness along the shore from the beach to ~1 km into the lake. From Kenosha, Wisconsin, to Chicago, Illinois, we acquired 1049 line-km of TEM data, and 13.43 line-km of ERT data. Our results indicated a distinct, uneven distribution and thickness of the unconsolidated sand unit covering the southwestern Lake Michigan shoreline. The unconsolidated sand unit was found to range in thickness from 0 to ~12 m. This unconsolidated sand unit was shown to be thickest (4.5 to ~10 m) in the northern part of the study site. In southern Wisconsin and Chicago, the sand layer beneath the water column was found to be very thin, ≤1 m. We propose, based on our analysis, that lake-bed conditions and wind direction are the main factors that limit southward littoral transport. Our data suggest that the current state of the shoreline is relatively analogous to how it has always behaved; however, anthropogenic disturbance has exacerbated the natural patterns of erosion and accretion.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1544-1558
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Great Lakes Research
Volume46
Issue number6
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 2020

Keywords

  • Accretion
  • Erosion
  • Illinois shoreline
  • Lake Michigan
  • Littoral transport
  • Unconsolidated sand thickness

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Aquatic Science
  • Ecology

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