There it was. The last figure in Ritchie and Penland (1988). A conceptual model for coastal dune development on barrier islands subject to storms. It is the figure I was looking for in 2015 when I wrote a paper on coastal dunes — I just found it one year too late..
Here is the figure from Ritchie and Penland (1988):
The figure lays out a tidy conceptual model where coastal dunes tend to develop with time, subject to erosion from minor storm events. After some period of time, the minor storms stop causing dune erosion and the dune reaches a final stage of development before being totally destroyed by a major storm.
Now to my own figure in Goldstein and Moore (2016):
Which shows the trajectory of the nondimensional dune height (D*) as the dune is subjected to periodic storm events (with different characteristics, hence the multiple curves). This is not the exact as from Ritchie and Penland, but it sure is close (and I could certainly have made a more similar version).
This sort of issue — discovering a great reference too late — is bound to happen for coastal dune researchers (since so many coastal dune papers are published) and for other earth scientists since so many papers are published. Preliminary work suggests that there may not be a major growth in reference section size. So I bet others have this problem of finding a good paper too late — but it still hurts.