Field measurements of the flux and speed of wind-blown sand

Ronald Greeley, Dan G. Blumberg, Steven H. Williams

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

161 Scopus citations


A field experiment was conducted to measure the flux and speed of wind-blown sand under known conditions in a natural setting. The experiment, run at Pismo Beach, California, involved a tract 100 m long (parallel with the wind) by 20 m wide. The site was instrumented with four arrays of anemometers to obtain wind velocity profiles through the lower atmospheric boundary-layer, temperature probes to determine atmospheric stability and wind vanes to determine wind direction. From these measurements, wind friction speeds were derived for each experimental run. In order to measure sand saltation flux, a trench 3 m long by 10 m wide (transverse to the wind direction) by 0·5 m deep was placed at the downwind end of the tract and lined with 168 collector bins, forming an 'egg-box' pattern. The mass of particles collected in each bin was determined for four experimental runs. In order to assess various sand-trap systems used in previous experiments, 12 Leatherman traps, one Fryberger trap and one array of Ames traps were deployed to collect particles concurrently with the trench collection. Particle velocities were determined from analysis of high-speed (3000 and 5000 frames per second) motion pictures and from a particle velocimeter. Sand samples were collected from the trench bins and the various sand traps and grain size distributions were determined. Fluxes for each run were calculated using various previously published expressions, and then compared with the flux derived from the trench collection. Results show that Bagnold's (1941) model and White's (1979) equation most closely agree with values derived from the trench. Comparison of the various collector systems shows that the Leatherman and Ames traps most closely agree with the flux derived from the trench, although these systems tended to under-collect particles. Particle speeds were measured from analysis of motion pictures for saltating particles in ascending and descending parts of their trajectories. Results show that particle velocities from the velocimeter are in the range 0·5-7·0 m s-1, compared to a wind friction velocity of 0·32-0·43 m s-1 and a wind velocity of 2·7-3·9 m s-1 at the height of the particle measurements. Descending particles tended to exceed the speeds of ascending particles by ∼0·5 m s-1.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)41-52
Number of pages12
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Feb 1996
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geology
  • Stratigraphy


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