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Bourke, M.C. 2010. Barchan dune asymmetry: Observations from Mars and Earth. Icarus, 205(1): 183–197


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Barchan dune asymmetry: Observations from Mars and Earth.

Summary / Notes:

Barchan dune asymmetry refers to the extension of one barchan limb downwind. It is a common dune form on Earth and also occurs on Mars and Titan. A new classification of barchan limbs is presented where three types of limb morphology are identified: linear, kinked and beaded. These, along with other dune-scale morphological signatures, are used to identify three of the causes of barchan asymmetry on Mars: bi-directional winds, dune collision and the influence of inclined topography. The potential for specific dune asymmetric morphologies to indicate aspects of the formative wind regime on planetary surfaces is shown. For example, the placement of dune limbs can indicate the general direction and relative strength of formative oblique winds; an extreme barchan limb length may indicate a long duration oblique wind; a kinked limb may be evidence of the passage of a storm; beaded limbs may represent surface-wave instabilities caused by an increase in wind energy parallel to the dune. A preliminary application of these signatures finds evidence for bi-modal winds on Mars. However, these and other morphological signatures of wind direction and relative strength should be applied to planetary landforms with caution as more than one process (e.g., bi-modal winds and collision) may be operating together or sequentially on the dunefield. In addition, analysis should be undertaken at the dunefield scale and not on individual dunes. Finally, morphological data should be acquired from similar-scale dunes within a dunefield. In addition to bi-modal wind regimes on Mars, the frequent parallel alignment of the extended barchan limb to the dune suggests that dune collision is also an important cause of asymmetry on Mars. Some of the more complex dunefield patterns result from a combination of dune collision, limb extension and merging with downwind dunes. Dune asymmetric form does not inhibit dune migration in the Namib Desert or on Mars. Data from the Namib suggest that dune migration rates are similar for symmetric and asymmetric dunes. Further modeling and field studies are needed to refine our understanding of the potential range of limb and dune morphologies that can result from specific asymmetry causes. Keywords: Mars, surface, Earth, Geological processes.

Year: 2010

Type: Journal Article

URL: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0019103509003819


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