Shoreline superelevation, clues to coastal processes of Great Salt Lake

  • Genevieve Atwood Utah Geological Survey
  • Tamara Wambeam
  • Charles G. Oviatt Kansas State University


Coastal processes create the shoreline evidence of Great Salt Lake. Shoreline superelevation is the difference in elevation between still water lake level and the shoreline evidence produced by the lake at that level. Processes of formation include effects of wind strength, fetch, beach attributes, coastline aspect, and coast morphology. A series of field studies from 1986 through 2000 concluded strong storm winds from the northwest contribute to the patterns and magnitude of shoreline superelevation. Weather data for 2020-2023 for Gunnison Island and Hat Island document strong storm winds from the north and northwest for Gunnison Bay and with more complexity for Gilbert Bay. The strongest wind patterns are consistent with the geologic evidence of shoreline superelevation produced by the high lake stands of 1986-1987. Wind strength, fetch, and storm duration cause Great Salt Lake wave regimes. The wave-regimes of Great Salt Lake are fetch-limited due to the size and morphology of the water body. In contrast, the long fetch of large lakes such as Lake Bonneville (the enlarged manifestation of the Great Salt Lake lacustrine system), determines the magnitude and patterns of their shoreline superelevation. Geologic evidence of shoreline superelevation of modern- and paleo- fetch-limited lakes similar to Great Salt Lake may be durable evidence of storm wind direction.

How to Cite
Atwood , G., Wambeam , T., and Oviatt , C., 2024, Shoreline superelevation, clues to coastal processes of Great Salt Lake: Geosites, v. 51, p. 1-24., doi: 10.31711/ugap.v51i.138.