Successive aeolian saltation: studies of idealized collisions



As observed by Bagnold and experimentally reconfirmed by other workers, the impact angles of saltating grains are remarkably constant over a wide range of conditions, lying between 10° and 16°. It can be shown that successive saltation contains a mechanism which very effectively confines impact angles to that range. This control mechanism is most effective at windspeeds less than about 15–30 m s-1, depending on grain diameter and mass.

The control mechanism is evaluated from model calculations of grain populations saltating over a level bed consisting of a layer of loose grains. The grains are assumed to be spherical and uniform in size and mass, also rigid and perfectly elastic. The model also describes distributions of maximum height of grain paths and of lift-off-angles.

Compared to other processes involved in aeolian saltation, successive saltation is the only process with a high probability of transferring energy from horizontal into vertical grain movement.

This fact, together with the calculations presented, strongly suggests that successive saltation plays a major role in saltation in air.

Successive saltation of uniform grains is theoretically impossible if the ground over which saltation occurs is tilted by about 15° against wind direction. Values of tilt angles in this range are observed in nature as stoss-side angles of dunes and ripples, leading to the concept that stoss-sides are tilted up by deposition until successive saltation is subdued.