A field study of mean and turbulent flow characteristics upwind, over and downwind of barchan dunes

Matthew C. Baddock, Giles F.S. Wiggs, Ian Livingstone

    Research output: Contribution to Book/ReportChapterpeer-review


    Field-measured patterns of mean velocity and turbulent airflow are reported for isolated barchan dunes. Turbulence was sampled using a high frequency sonic anemometer, deriving near-surface Reynolds shear and normal stresses. Measurements upwind of and over a crest-brink separated barchan indicated that shear stress was sustained despite a velocity reduction at the dune toe. The mapped streamline angles and enhanced turbulent intensities suggest the effects of positive streamline curvature are responsible for this maintenance of shear stress. This field evidence supports an existing model for dune morphodynamics based on wind tunnel turbulence measurements. Downwind, the effect of different dune profiles on flow re-attachment and recovery was apparent. With transverse incident flow, a re-attachment length between 2.3 and 5.0h (h is dune brink height) existed for a crest-brink separated dune and 6.5 to 8.6h for a crest-brink coincident dune. The lee side shear layer produced elevated turbulent stresses immediately downwind of both dunes, and a decrease in turbulence with distance characterized flow recovery. Recovery of mean velocity for the crest-brink separated dune occurred over a distance 6.5h shorter than the crest-brink coincident form. As the application of sonic anemometers in aeolian geomorphology is relatively new, there is debate concerning the suitability of processing their data in relation to dune surface and streamline angle. This paper demonstrates the effect on Reynolds stresses of mathematically correcting data to the local streamline over varying dune slope. Where the streamline angle was closely related to the surface (windward slope), time-averaged shear stress agreed best with previous wind tunnel findings when data were rotated along streamlines. In the close lee, however, the angle of downwardly projected (separated) flow was not aligned with the flat ground surface. Here, shear stress appeared to be underestimated by streamline correction, and corrected shear stress values were less than half of those uncorrected. Copyright (c) 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationEarth Surface Processes and Landforms
    Number of pages14
    Publication statusPublished - 15 Sep 2011

    Publication series

    NameEarth Surface Processes and Landforms


    • Barchan morphology
    • Dune dynamics
    • Flow recovery
    • Shear stress
    • Ultrasonic anemometer


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