Deviations from self-similarity in barchan form and flux: The case of the Salton Sea dunes, California

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Barchans are the type of aeolian dune associated with a relatively uniform wind direction, incomplete sand coverage of the substrate, and low vegetation cover. Here I present an analysis of the morphology and migration rates of 40 dunes in the Salton Sea dune field using historical aerial orthophotographs, airborne laser swath mapping, terrestrial laser scanning, and measurements of the aerodynamic roughness length derived from wind velocity profiles. The data demonstrate that the Salton Sea dunes deviate from self-similarity such that smaller dunes have a lower ratio of slip face height to crest height and a lower slope, on average, compared with larger dunes and that smaller dunes migrate more slowly than would be predicted based on an inverse relationship between migration rate and dune height. The lack of self-similarity in barchans has been attributed to the dependence of speed-up ratios on dune size and the presence of a finite saturation length in the physics of aeolian transport. Here I argue that deviations from self-similarity at this study site are more likely due to the systematic decrease in aerodynamic roughness length with increasing elevation on stoss slopes. The data set I developed should prove useful to the aeolian geomorphic community for the further testing of models for barchan evolution. Key Points Airborne and terrestrial lidar are used to monitor dune form and migration Barchans deviate from self-similarity as a function of dune size Such deviations may be a result of spatial variations in aerodynamic roughness

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2406-2420
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Earth Surface
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2013


  • Salton Sea
  • aeolian dunes
  • aerodynamic roughness length
  • lidar

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Earth-Surface Processes
  • Geophysics


Dive into the research topics of 'Deviations from self-similarity in barchan form and flux: The case of the Salton Sea dunes, California'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this