Avalanche grainflow on a simulated aeolian dune

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Abstract

[1] Avalanches maintain the slipface of aeolian dunes, which alters their airflow characteristics and sediment dynamics, and results in the development of grainflow cross-bedding. We report on a series of experiments in which avalanches were observed on a 1:1 replica of a small (1.2 m brink height) transverse dune in the Dune Simulation Wind Tunnel under wind velocities of 8–11 m s−1. Changes in slipface topography were observed photographically and measured utilizing a 3-D laser scanner with 1 mm2 spatial resolution. Avalanches in noncohesive sands were observed to progress through scarp recession from the point of initiation and continue until the slope angle is reduced. Changes in local slope confirm that the steep, pre-avalanche mean slope relaxes to a uniform value equal to the angle of repose of the test sand (32°) over all involved portions of the slipface. Avalanche volumes are measured, and demonstrate that avalanche magnitude is independent of wind speed over the range of velocities observed. This independence provides the potential to significantly simplify the modeling of grainflow as a function of only the total cross brink sediment transport.

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