New research points to erosional origin of linear dunes

Feb 24, 2012
Artificially excavated cross sections showing internal structures of linear dunes (Fig. 2 of Zhou et al.).

Linear dunes, widespread on Earth and Saturn's moon, Titan, are generally considered to have been formed by deposits of windblown sand. It has been speculated for some time that some linear dunes may have formed by "wind-rift" erosion, but this model has commonly been rejected due to lack of sufficient evidence. Now, new research supported by China's NSF and published this week in GSA BULLETIN indicates that erosional origin models should not be ruled out.

The linear dunes in China's Qaidam Basin have been proposed to have formed as self-extending lee dunes under a unidirectional wind regime owing to a high level of total silt, clay, and or cohesiveness of sediments, and they have undergone southward lateral migration at rates of up to 3 m/yr.

New GSA BULLETIN research examines the sediments, internal structures, and optically stimulated ages of the linear dunes in the central Qaidam Basin approximately 80 km north of the city Golmud. The study's findings suggest that the linear dunes are most likely of erosional origin similar to yardangs with orientations controlled by strikes of joints.

According to the study's lead author, Jianxun Zhou of the China University of Petroleum's State Key Laboratory of Petroleum Resource & Prospecting, "If the control of tectonic structures on the orientation of wind-eroded ridges is taken into account, morphodynamic interpretations for the wind-rift model may become much simpler. No one has considered the possibility of erosional origin for the linear dunes on Titan. Nearly all researchers consider the linear dunes on Titan to be of depositional origin, but their morphodynamic interpretations are complicated and their relationships to wind directions are in dispute. If an erosional origin is considered, the morphodynamic interpretations of the linear dunes on Titan can also be greatly simplified."

Explore further: Image: The colors of sunset over the ISS

More information: Jianxun Zhou et al., State Key Laboratory of Petroleum Resource & Prospecting, China University of Petroleum, Beijing 102249, China; doi: 10.1130/B30550.1

Provided by Geological Society of America

3 /5 (1 vote)
add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Cassini Maps Global Pattern of Titan's Dunes

Feb 27, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- Titan's vast dune fields, which may act like weather vanes to determine general wind direction on Saturn's biggest moon, have been mapped by scientists who compiled four years of radar data ...

In deserts, which dunes are the most stable?

May 28, 2010

By modeling a desert where the wind blows in two directions, French researchers from CNRS and Universite Paris Dideror have succeeded in observing and highlighting, for the very first time, the formation process ...

Putting it all together on Titan

Aug 09, 2011

Three of Titan's major surface features -- dunes, craters and the enigmatic Xanadu -- appear in this radar image from NASA's Cassini spacecraft. The hazy, bright area at the left that extends to the lower ...

Cassini sees the two faces of Titan's Dunes

Jan 24, 2012

(PhysOrg.com) -- A new analysis of radar data from NASA's Cassini mission, in partnership with the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency, has revealed regional variations among sand dunes on Saturn's ...

Recommended for you

Russian, American ready for a year in space

8 hours ago

The Russian astronaut heading off for a year in space says he'll miss the natural landscapes on Earth. His American counterpart jokes he won't miss his twin brother.

Image: The colors of sunset over the ISS

21 hours ago

ESA astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti took these images from the International Space Station during her six-month mission. The Progress cargo ship and Soyuz crew spacecraft reflect sunlight as our star sets ...

Feud on Earth but peace in space for US and Russia

Mar 26, 2015

Hundreds of kilometres below on Earth, their governments are locked in a standoff over Ukraine—but up in space, Russian cosmonauts and American astronauts are still working together side by side.

Japan launches replacement spy satellite

Mar 26, 2015

Japan on Thursday successfully launched a replacement spy satellite, its aerospace agency said, as an existing device comes to the end of its working life.

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.