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sand dune, any buildup of sand grains shaped right into a mound or ridge through the wind under the influence of gravity. Sand dunes are similar to other develops that appear when a fluid moves over a loosened bed, such together subaqueous “dunes” on the beds of rivers and also tidal estuaries and sand tide on the continent shelves in ~ shallow seas. Dunes are discovered wherever loosened sand is windblown: in deserts, on beaches, and even on some eroded and also abandoned farm fields in halfdry regions, such together northwest India and parts that the southwestern unified States. Pictures of Mars reverted by the U.S. Mariner 9 and Viking spacecrafts have displayed that dunes room widely distributed on that planet both in craters and also in a sand sea bordering the north polar ice cream cap.

True dunes must be distinguished from dunes formed in conjunction through vegetation. The last cover relatively small areas on quiet humid coastlands and likewise occur on the halfdry margins that deserts. True dunes covering much much more extensive areas—up to several hundred square kilometres—primarily in an excellent sand seas (ergs), few of which space as big as France or Texas. They additionally occur, however, as small isolated dunes on tough desert surfaces, spanning an area the as little as 10 square metres (107 square feet). Areas of gently undulating sandy surfaces through low relief space classified as sand sheets. They frequently have a practically flat or rippled surface ar of coarse sand grains and also are just a couple of centimetres come metres thick. Boy sand sheets cover only a couple of square kilometres around the spare of dune fields. A few, such as the Selima Sand sheet in southwestern Egypt and the northwestern Sudan, are probably almost as extensive as several of the great sand seas.


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During the previous two million years or so the conditions of very low rainfall under which true dunes type expanded past the spare part of the Sahara and other contemporary arid areas into locations that space now an ext humid. The finest evidence because that these alters is the existence of sand seas that room immobilized by vegetation. Dunes developed under comparable climates in the geologic past and at details times occupied deserts as comprehensive as modern-day ones. Rocks developed by the solidification of ancient sand seas occur, because that example, in the wall surfaces of the grand Canyon in the southwestern joined States, in the West Midlands that England, and in southerly Brazil.

Geomorphic characteristics

An knowledge of sand dunes calls for a an easy knowledge of their sands, the winds, and also the interaction of these main elements. These components will be treated subsequently in the complying with sections.


Dunes are practically invariably built of corpuscle of sand size. Clay particles are not commonly picked up by the wind because of their common coherence, and also if they are picked increase they often tend to it is in lifted high into the air. Only where clays are aggregated into particles that sand size, as on the Gulf coast of Texas, will certainly they be developed into dunes. Silt is more easily choose up by the wind yet is carried away quicker than sand, and also there are couple of signs that dunelike bed develops where silt is deposited, for circumstances as sheets the loess. Corpuscle coarser than sands, together as tiny pebbles, only type dunelike functions when over there are strong and persistent winds, together in seaside Peru, and also these coarse-grained functions are typically known as granule ripples rather than dunes. Bigger particles, such as tiny boulders, have the right to be moved by the wind only on slippery surface (e.g., ice or wet saline mud) and never form into dunes.

Common dune sands have median grain diameters between 0.02 and 0.04 cm (0.008 and 0.016 inch). The preferably common variety is in between 0.01 and 0.07 cm. Most dune sands room well sorted, and also a sample that sand indigenous a dune will certainly usually have particles every one of very similar size. The sand top top sand sheets, however, is poorly sorted and often bimodal—i.e., that is a mixture of outlet sands, often about 0.06 centimeter in diameter, and much finer sands, as well as particles of intermediary size. Windblown sands, especially the coarser particles, are frequently rounded and minutely pitted, the latter giving the grains a frosted appearance as soon as seen under a microscope.

Most windblown sand ~ above the planet is created of quartz. Quartz exists in large quantities in many igneous and also metamorphic rocks in crystals of sand size. It often tends to accumulate when these rocks space weathered away because it resists chemical breakdown far better than most minerals, which room taken away in solution. Most of the great sand seas occur in continent interiors that have actually been losing soluble material for countless years; together a consequence, quartzose sandstones space common. This sandstones are eroded through rainwash and also stream runoff, procedures that space spasmodic but violent in deserts. The eroded commodities are transported to an excellent interior basins where they are deposited. Such alluvial deposits room the resources of most windblown sand. Quartz also predominates in most seaside dune sands, however there usually are considerable mixtures of various other minerals in dunes the this kind.

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Dune sands not written of quartz room rarer yet not unknown. Near volcanic eruptions in Hawaii, some western states of the continental united States, and Tanzania, for example, dunes are developed of volcanic ash particles. In numerous arid areas, gypsum crystals of sand dimension are deposited on the floors of it s not long lakes together the water dries out; they space then blown favor sand to type gypsum dunes. Gypsum dunes occur in the White Sands nationwide Monument in brand-new Mexico, as well as in northern Algeria and also southwestern Australia.