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On the effect of moisture bonding forces in air-dry soils on threshold friction velocity of wind erosion

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Abstract

Wind erosion is a dominant geomorphological process in arid and semi-arid regions with major impacts on regional climate and desertification. The erosion process occurs when the wind speed exceeds a certain threshold value, which depends on a number of factors including surface soil moisture. The understanding and modelling of aeolian erosion requires a better understanding of the soil erodibility associated with different moisture conditions. In arid regions during the dry season, the atmospheric humidity plays an important role in determining the surface moisture content and the threshold shear velocity. By a series of wind tunnel tests and theoretical analyses, this dependence of threshold velocity on near surface air humidity is shown for three soils of different textures: sand, sandy loam, and clay loam. The results show that the threshold shear velocity decreases with increasing values of relative humidity for values of relative humidity between about 40% and 65%, while above and below this range the threshold shear velocity increases with air humidity. A theoretical framework is developed to explain these dependencies assuming an equilibrium between the surface soil moisture and the humidity of the overlying atmosphere. The conditions under which soil-atmosphere equilibrium occurs were tested experimentally in the laboratory for different soils in order to determine the effect of grain surface area and texture on the time required to reach equilibrium starting from different initial conditions.

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