Minimal size of a barchan dune Academic Article uri icon


  • Barchans are dunes of high mobility which have a crescent shape and propagate under conditions of unidirectional wind. However, sand dunes only appear above a critical size, which scales with the saturation distance of the sand flux [P. Hersen, S. Douady, and B. Andreotti, Phys. Rev. Lett. 89, 264301 (2002); B. Andreotti, P. Claudin, and S. Douady, Eur. Phys. J. B 28, 321 (2002); G. Sauermann, K. Kroy, and H. J. Herrmann, Phys. Rev. E 64, 31305 (2001)]. It has been suggested by P. Hersen, S. Douady, and B. Andreotti, Phys. Rev. Lett. 89, 264301 (2002)] that this flux fetch distance is itself constant. Indeed, this could not explain the protosize of barchan dunes, which often occur in coastal areas of high litoral drift, and the scale of dunes on Mars. In the present work, we show from three-dimensional calculations of sand transport that the size and the shape of the minimal barchan dune depend on the wind friction speed and the sand flux on the area between dunes in a field. Our results explain the common appearance of barchans a few tens of centimeter high which are observed along coasts. Furthermore, we find that the rate at which grains enter saltation on Mars is one order of magnitude higher than on Earth, and is relevant to correctly obtain the minimal dune size on Mars.

published proceedings

  • Physical Review E: Statistical, Nonlinear, and Soft Matter Physics

author list (cited authors)

  • Partelli, E., Duran, O., & Herrmann, H. J.

citation count

  • 102

complete list of authors

  • Partelli, EJR||Duran, O||Herrmann, HJ

publication date

  • January 2007