A seismic search for the paleoshorelines of Lake Otero beneath White Sands Dune Field, New Mexico
Thursday, 18 December 2014
The Tularosa Basin, which now houses White Sands Dune Field, was once occupied by Pleistocene Lake Otero. Several paleoshorelines of Lake Otero have been identified throughout the basin by field surveys and remote sensing using digital elevation models. Up to four shorelines may be buried beneath White Sands Dune Field and it has been posited that the current upwind margin of White Sands coincides with a one of these shorelines. Here we employ a novel geophysical instrument and method to image the subsurface: the seismic land streamer. The land streamer utilizes weighted base plates and one-component vertical geophones in a towed array. With a seisgun acoustic source, we imaged in the Alkali Flats area near the upwind margin, one potential location of paleoshorelines, as well as the Film Lot closer to the center of the dune field. Surfaces in both locations are indurated gypsum playa, which made seismic imaging possible and successful. We collected one SW-NE trending seismic line at each location, which matches the dominant wind and dune migration directions. Based on initial data analysis we find some subsurface structure that may coincide with the paleo lake bed of Lake Otero. The successful demonstration of this new method provides the foundation for an expanded regional subsurface study to image the strata and structure of the Tularosa Basin.