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Keywords:

  • Aeolian dune;
  • dune lee;
  • grainfall deposition;
  • wake flow

Grainfall deposition and associated grainflows in the lee of aeolian dunes are important in that they are preserved as cross-beds in the geological record and provide a key to the interpretation of the aeolian rock record. Despite their recognized importance, there have been very few field, laboratory or numerical simulation studies of leeside depositional processes on aeolian dunes. As part of an ongoing study, the relationships among grainfall, wind (speed and direction), stoss sand transport rates and dune morphometry (height and aspect ratio) were investigated on four relatively small, straight-crested transverse dunes at Silver Peak, Nevada. Between 55% and 95% of the total grainfall was found to be deposited within 1 m of the crest, and 84–99% within 2 m, depending primarily on dune size and shape. Grainfall decay rates on high dunes of large aspect ratio were observed to be very consistent, with a weak positive dependence on wind speed. For small dunes with low aspect ratios, grainfall deposition was more varied and decreased rapidly within 1 m of the dune crest, whereas at increased distance from the dune crest, it eventually approached the smaller decay rates observed on the large dunes. No dependence of grainfall on wind speed was observed for these small dunes. Comparison of field data with predictions from Anderson's (1988) saltation model of grainfall, based on the computation of saltation path lengths, indicates lack of agreement in the following areas: (1) deposition rate magnitude; (2) variation in decay rate with wind speed; and (3) the magnitude and location of the localized lee-slope depositional maxima. The Silver Peak field results demonstrate the importance of dune aspect ratio and related wake effects in determining the rate and pattern of grainfall. This work confirms earlier speculation by McDonald & Anderson (1995) that temporary, turbulent suspension (or `modified saltation') of relatively large grains does occur within the dune wake, so that transport distances generally are larger than predicted by numerical simulations of `true' saltation.