Dune leapfrogging is deciphered | Science News



Support credible science journalism.

Subscribe to Science News today.


Dune leapfrogging is deciphered

10:14am, December 16, 2003

Physicists have unraveled how certain wind-driven sand dunes in Morocco and Peru apparently tunnel through slower dunes.

Barchan dunes are massive, crescent-shaped sand piles that move across wind-swept deserts at speeds up to tens of meters per year. Because smaller dunes outpace bigger dunes and eventually appear in front of them, the small dunes seem to be punching through big ones.

Such behavior has precedents: Solitary waves of light, sound, or water that pass directly through each other are known as solitons (SN: 11/20/99, p.327). Now, a new mathematical model for wind-driven sand, as well as computer simulations of the same, reveal that one Barchan dune can, indeed, act as a soliton and pass through a slower-moving dune.

This article is available only to subscribing members. Join the Society today or Log in.

Get Science News headlines by e-mail.

More from Science News

From the Nature Index Paid Content