Wind sedimentation in the Jafurah sand sea, Saudi Arabia



The Jafurah sand sea of the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia extends along the Arabian Gulf coastline from Kuwait in the north to the Rub Al Khali in the south, a distance of about 800 km. Sand drifts southward to south-eastward from regions of high wind energy in the north to low wind energy in the south.

The aeolian landscape is zoned, with areas of deflation, transport and deposition from north to south. Drift rates in the zone of transport, near Abqaiq, range from 2 m3 m-w-1 yr-1 on sabkhas, to 29 m3 m-w-1 yr-1 on the crests of dunes. Average drift rates of approximately 18 m3 m-w-1 yr-1 observed during the study can cause about 1 m of accumulation per 5500 yr in a 100 km zone of deposition downwind, not including the bulk transport represented by the forward advance of dunes. Dune advance ranged from 23 m (2.9 m high dune) to 3 m (23 m high dune) during April-October 1980.

The study area consists of dune, interdune, sand sheet and siliciclastic sabkha terrains, each of which is characterized by differing drift rates, and differing rates of erosion or deposition. Sedimentation occurs by lateral movement of dunes and interdunes, and vertical accretion by sand sheets and sabkhas.