Large-scale variability of wind erosion mass flux rates at Owens Lake: 1. Vertical profiles of horizontal mass fluxes of wind-eroded particles with diameter greater than 50 μm


  • Dale A. Gillette,

  • D. W. Fryrear,

  • Jing Bing Xiao,

  • Paul Stockton,

  • Duane Ono,

  • Paula J. Helm,

  • Thomas E. Gill,

  • Trevor Ley


A field experiment at Owens (dry) Lake, California, tested whether and how the relative profiles of airborne horizontal mass fluxes for >50-μm wind-eroded particles changed with friction velocity. The horizontal mass flux at almost all measured heights increased proportionally to the cube of friction velocity above an apparent threshold friction velocity for all sediment tested and increased with height except at one coarse-sand site where the relative horizontal mass flux profile did not change with friction velocity. Size distributions for long-time-averaged horizontal mass flux samples showed a saltation layer from the surface to a height between 30 and 50 cm, above which suspended particles dominate. Measurements from a large dust source area on a line parallel to the wind showed that even though the saltation flux reached equilibrium ∼650 m downwind of the starting point of erosion, weakly suspended particles were still input into the atmosphere 1567 m downwind of the starting point; thus the saltating fraction of the total mass flux decreased after 650 m. The scale length difference and ratio of 70/30 suspended mass flux to saltation mass flux at the farthest down wind sampling site confirm that suspended particles are very important for mass budgets in large source areas and that saltation mass flux can be a variable fraction of total horizontal mass flux for soils with a substantial fraction of <100-μm particles.