Aeolian dune-field boundary conditions and dune interactions related to dune-field pattern formation on Earth and Mars
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Aeolian dune fields form some of the most striking patterns on Earth and Mars. These patterns reflect the internal dune dynamics of self-organization within boundary conditions, which are the unique set of environmental variables within which each dune field evolves. Dune-field pattern self-organization occurs because of interactions between the dunes themselves and the rich diversity of dune-field patterns arises because boundary conditions alter the type and frequency of dune interactions. These hypotheses are explored in three parts. First, source-area geometry and areal limits are two newly recognized boundary conditions. Measurements of crest length and spacing from satellite images of dune patterns with point and line source-area geometries show an increase in crest length and spacing over distance, whereas crest length and spacing in plane-sourced patterns emerge equally across the dune field. The areal limit boundary condition is the size and shape of the dune field itself. Empirical measurements from ten dune fields ranging over four orders of magnitude in area show that spacing increases and defect density decreases as the area of the dune field increases. A simple analytical model indicates that dune fields that are five times longer in the dune migration direction can achieve the greatest spacing for a given area. Second, time-series aerial photographs and airborne LiDAR show that fully developed, crescentic aeolian dunes at White Sands, New Mexico, interact and the dune pattern organizes in systematically similar ways as wind ripples and subaqueous dunes and ripples. Interaction type, classified as constructive, regenerative or neutral in terms of pattern development, changes spatially with the pattern because of the imposition of the line-source area and sediment availability boundary conditions. Upwind dominance by constructive interactions at the field line-source yields to neutral and regenerative interactions in the sediment availability-limited field center. Third, the dune-field pattern in the Olympia Undae Dune Field on Mars is comprised of two generations of dunes. This scenario of pattern reformation with a new wind regime shows that the emergence of the younger pattern is controlled by the boundary condition of the antecedent dune topography imposed upon the interaction between the younger and older patterns.
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