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Supply-limited horizontal sand drift at an ephemerally crusted, unvegetated saline playa

January 1, 2001

A site at Owens Dry Lake was observed for more than 4 years. The site was a vegetation-free saline playa where the surface formed “ephemeral crusts,” crusts that form after rainfall. Sometimes these crusts were destroyed and often a layer of particles on the crust would engage in vigorous aeolian activity. Three “phases” of active sand drifting are defined as almost no movement (extreme supply limitation), loose particles on crust with some degree of sand drift (moderate supply limitation), and unlimited source movement corresponding to a destroyed surface crust (unlimited supply). These “phases” occurred 45, 49, and 6% of the time, respectively. The accumulation of loose particles on the crust was mostly the result of in situ formation. Crusted sediments with loose particles on top can exhibit mass flux rates about the same as for noncrusted sediments. Crusted sediments limit or eliminate sand drift in two conditions: for rough crusts that effect a sufficiently high threshold friction velocity (above the wind friction velocity) and for limited amounts of loose particles on the crust where particle supply is less than would be transported in normal saltation for a thick sandy surface. These “supply-limited” cases are similar to wind erosion of limited spilled material on a hard concrete surface. We quantified “supply limitation” by defining a “potential” or “supply unlimited” sand drift function Q = AG where A represents supply limitation that decreases as the particle source is depleted. Here Q is the mass of sand transported through a surface perpendicular to the ground and to the wind and having unit width during time period t, and G = ∫ u*(u2* − u2*t) dt for u* > u*t. G is integrated for the same time period t as for Q, u* is the friction velocity of the wind, and u*t is the threshold friction velocity of the wind. Hard crusts (usually formed in the summer) tended to show almost no change of threshold friction velocity with time and often gave total protection from wind erosion. Rough crusts provided sufficient protection expressed as high threshold friction velocities. For these high threshold friction velocities, aeolian activity was greatly reduced or practically prevented. The softest crusts, usually formed in the winter, provided much less protection and sometimes were destroyed by the wind. Following this destruction the “potential” or “supply unlimited” sand drift would be observed.

Publication Year 2001
Title Supply-limited horizontal sand drift at an ephemerally crusted, unvegetated saline playa
DOI 10.1029/2000JD900324
Authors Dale A. Gillette, T.C. Niemeyer, P. J. Helm
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Journal of Geophysical Research D: Atmospheres
Index ID 70023694
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse