Desert dunes transformed by end-of-century changes in wind climate

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Sand dunes in arid regions are conspicuous mobile landforms that require adaptation and mitigation strategies to protect human infrastructure and economic assets from encroachment, and play a substantial role in desertification and atmospheric dust emissions. Here we show how the shape, migration speed and direction of mobile desert dunes globally are projected to change by 2100, in response to sand-moving wind regime shifts associated with climate change under the shared socio-economic pathway SSP5-8.5 (SSP, shared socio-economic pathway) scenario. We find transformations in dune dynamics for many sand seas and dune fields across the Sahara, The Horn of Africa, the Southern Arabian Peninsula, South Asia, China and Australia—as well as an increased potential for sand sea expansion and reactivation of dormant dune fields—linked to climate change alterations in the Hadley circulation, extra-tropical cyclone activity and monsoon systems. These projected changes will affect planning for and management of dune encroachment on transportation infrastructure, industry and urban development in desert regions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)999-1006
Number of pages8
JournalNature climate change
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 27 Oct 2022


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