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Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Modeling aeolian dune and dune field evolution
by Diniega, Serina, Ph.D., The University of Arizona, 2010, 163; 3411981
Abstract (Summary)

Aeolian sand dune morphologies and sizes are strongly connected to the environmental context and physical processes active since dune formation. As such, the patterns and measurable features found within dunes and dune fields can be interpreted as records of environmental conditions. Using mathematical models of dune and dune field evolution, it should be possible to quantitatively predict dune field dynamics from current conditions or to determine past field conditions based on present-day observations.

In this dissertation, we focus on the construction and quantitative analysis of a continuum dune evolution model. We then apply this model towards interpretation of the formative history of terrestrial and martian dunes and dune fields. Our first aim is to identify the controls for the characteristic lengthscales seen in patterned dune fields. Variations in sand flux, binary dune interactions, and topography are evaluated with respect to evolution of individual dunes. Through the use of both quantitative and qualitative multiscale models, these results are then extended to determine the role such processes may play in (de)stabilization of the dune field. We find that sand flux variations and topography generally destabilize dune fields, while dune collisions can yield more similarly-sized dunes. We construct and apply a phenomenological macroscale dune evolution model to then quantitatively demonstrate how dune collisions cause a dune field to evolve into a set of uniformly-sized dunes. Our second goal is to investigate the influence of reversing winds and polar processes in relation to dune slope and morphology. Using numerical experiments, we investigate possible causes of distinctive morphologies seen in Antarctic and martian polar dunes. Finally, we discuss possible model extensions and needed observations that will enable the inclusion of more realistic physical environments in the dune and dune field evolution models.

By elucidating the qualitative and quantitative connections between environmental conditions, physical processes, and resultant dune and dune field morphologies, this research furthers our ability to interpret spacecraft images of dune fields, and to use present-day observations to improve our understanding of past terrestrial and martian environments.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Glasner, Karl
Commitee: Byrne, Shane, Lin, Kevin, Tabor, Michael
School: The University of Arizona
Department: Applied Mathematics
School Location: United States -- Arizona
Source: DAI-B 71/08, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Applied Mathematics, Geomorphology, Planetology
Keywords: Aeolian, Dune, Dune field, Evolution, Model, Pattern formation
Publication Number: 3411981
ISBN: 978-1-124-08534-0
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