Formation and reorganization time scales of aeolian landscapes

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Landscapes created through sediment transport are shaped by the interaction of flow and form. In landscapes where wind is the agent of geomorphic work, this is clear at the small scale; equilibrium dune morphology is linked to the wind climate and the supply of sediment. At larger scales, this linkage becomes ambiguous because the form of giant dunes and dune fields integrates long histories of varied wind and sand supply. Without a framework to assess aeolian landscape evolution at this scale, the time taken to form and reorganize dune fields has been largely unexplored quantitatively. We show that these time scales can be understood by linking modern wind and topographic data sets for one of the most expansive and morphologically diverse unvegetated dune fields, the Rub’ al Khali (southern Arabian Peninsula). By linking sediment flux to the surface area and slope of dunes, and growth to the divergence in that flux, we fully couple form and flow at the dune field scale. Our results show quantitatively how dune field formation and reorganization are outpaced by climate change and the implications for stratigraphic interpretation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)351-355
Number of pages5
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2023

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