Eight. Sand Seas

  1. Andrew Warren

Published Online: 27 MAR 2013

DOI: 10.1002/9781118295786.ch8

Dunes: Dynamics, Morphology, History

Dunes: Dynamics, Morphology, History

How to Cite

Warren, A. (2013) Sand Seas, in Dunes: Dynamics, Morphology, History, John Wiley & Sons, Oxford. doi: 10.1002/9781118295786.ch8

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 27 MAR 2013
  2. Published Print: 20 MAY 2013

ISBN Information

Print ISBN: 9781444339697

Online ISBN: 9781118295786



  • dune patterns;
  • Sahara;
  • sand seas;
  • tectonic basins;
  • wind


The term ‘Sand Sea’ (Sandmeer) was probably first used by Gerhard Rohlfs in accounts of his gruelling explorations of the Sahara. Size has little influence on the dune patterns in a body of sand, as can be seen in the uniformity of pattern in most of the huge Australian sand seas, and the variety in very much smaller sand seas, such as the Coral Pink dune field almost on the Utah–Arizona line. By any set of criteria, the Rub' al Khali in Arabia (20°N; 49°E) is the largest sand sea on Earth. Sand seas in tectonic basins are rendered immobile for long stretches of geological time by the tectonically determined boundaries, even if sand is continually joining from upwind, and leaving downwind. Many sand seas are linked by regional transfers of sand (as in Australia, earlier). The most extensive transfer is across the Sahara, as interpreted from satellite imagery.