Morphodynamics of Planetary Deserts: A Laboratory Approach

Thursday, 18 December 2014
Amandine Garcia1, Sylvain Courrech Du Pont1 and Sebastien Rodriguez2, (1)University Denis Diderot Paris VII, Paris Cedex 13, France, (2)AIM - CEA/CNRS/Uni. P7, Gif/Yvette, France
Earth deserts show a rich variety of dune shapes from transverse to barchan, star and linear dunes depending on the history of wind regimes (strength and variability) and sand availability [1]. In desert, exposed to one wind direction, dunes perpendicular to the wind direction are found to be transverse or barchans, only sand availability plays a key role on their formation and evolution. However, the evolution time scale of such structures (several years) limits our investigation of their morphodynamics understanding. We use here, a laboratory experiment able to considerably reduce space and time scales by reproducing millimeter to centimeter subaqueous dunes by controlling environmental parameters such as type of wind (multi-winds, bimodal, quasi-bimodal or unidirectional wind) and amount of sediment [2,3]. This set up allows us to characterize more precisely the different modes of dune formation and long-term evolution, and to constrain the physics behind the morphogenesis and dynamics of dunes. Indeed, the formation, evolution and transition between the different dune modes are better understood and quantified thanks to a new setting experiment able to give a remote sediment source in continuous (closer to what happens in terrestrial desert): a sand distributor that controls the input sand flow. Firstly, in a one wind direction conditions, we managed to follow and quantify the growth of the instability of transverse dunes that break into barchans when the sand supply is low and reversely when the sand supply is higher, barchan fields evolve to bars dunes ending to form transverse. The next step will be to perform experiments under two winds conditions in order to better constrain the formation mode of linear dunes, depending also only on the input sand flux. Previous experiments shown that linear “finger” dunes can be triggered by the break of transverse dunes and then the elongating of one barchan’s arm [4].

These studies can farther explain more precisely in different wind history and sand supply, these patterns state that should emerge and, by applying the relevant scale law, to apply this laboratory work to terrestrial and planetary (Mars and Titan) desert dynamics.

[1] Bagnold R.A. (1941). [2] Hersen P. (2004). [3] Reffet E. (2010). [4] Courrech Du Pont S. et al. (2014).