Lee slope sediment processes leading to avalanche initiation on an aeolian dune



[1] In order to detail the governing conditions through which a slipface matures to the point of failure, dry sand avalanches were observed in the Dune Simulation Wind Tunnel on a 1:1 replica transverse dune with a crest height of approximately 1.2 m. Areal distributions of grainfall and reptation were measured using traps. Changes in the slipface elevation were observed using 3-D laser scanning with a vertical accuracy of 0.096 mm for approximately every 1 mm2 of surface area. Grainfall decayed exponentially from the brink with a constant rate across all wind velocities. Reptation removed sediment from areas close to the brink and deposited it downslope, creating low amplitude, cross-slope ripples on the slipface. A critical length scale separating grainscale and bulk sediment behavior is identified, and it defines the lower limit to the validity of angle of repose measurements. Avalanche initiation occurred in an area of steep surface slope below a sediment bulge, with distance from the brink independent of wind velocity. The time between avalanches was found to be constant for constant wind velocity.