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Internal sedimentary structure of linear dunes modelled with a cellular automaton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Original languageEnglish
Early online date4 Jun 2020
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 4 Jun 2020


King's Authors


Linear dunes are the most common type of dune found on Earth and exist on several extra‐terrestrial bodies, but despite this abundance their internal stratigraphy has not been commonly agreed. A cellular automaton is deployed to simulate the development of linear dunes, starting from a flat bed, under bi‐modal oblique wind regimes of varying degrees of asymmetry. The internal stratigraphy of the linear dunes is monitored by keeping track of (buried) erosion surfaces, avalanche deposits, vertical accumulation, as well as the age of last subaerial exposure of the sediments. The simulations show the initial pattern‐coarsening of a network of small dunes into fewer larger longitudinal ridges via bedform interactions and Y‐junction dynamics. Three newly recognized types of bedform interaction are identified that relate to initial Y‐junction dynamics: longitudinal crest‐splitting, which creates free dune tips that can interact with adjacent dunes, and laterally oscillating interactions that lead to ephemeral Y‐junctions (normal or reverse). The results show that these three bedform interactions leave no persistent signatures in the stratigraphic record. However, a further three bedform interactions involving the superposition of one dune onto another – merging, cannibalizing and repulsion (known from transverse dune field dynamics) – do leave specific evidence in the internal stratigraphy of the remaining dune, a buried interaction surface at a specific inclination. The preservation potential of this interaction surface varies between the three types. After the initial pattern‐coarsening phase the linear dunes become larger and more independent and their crest orientation follows the net resultant transport direction. The stratigraphies of mature dunes under wind regimes of differing asymmetry show that under (nearly) symmetrical winds the dune accumulates mainly vertically, with strata dipping parallel to the flanks, while under more asymmetrical wind regimes the internal stratigraphy resembles that of transverse dunes.

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