Sand dunes and other active sands generally have a low content of fine grains and, therefore, are not considered to be major dust sources in current climate models. However, recent remote sensing studies have indicated that a surprisingly large fraction of dust storms are generated from regions covered by sand dunes, leading these studies to propose that sand dunes might be globally relevant sources of dust. To help understand dust emissions from sand dunes and other active sands, we present in situ field measurements of dust emission under natural saltation from a coastal sand sheet at Oceano Dunes in California. We find that saltation drives dust emissions from this setting that are on the low end of the range in emissions produced by non-sandy soils for similar wind speed. Laboratory analyses of sand samples suggest that these emissions are produced by aeolian abrasion of feldspars and removal of clay-mineral coatings on sand grain surfaces. We further find that this emitted dust is substantially finer than dust emitted from non-sandy soils, which could enhance its downwind impacts on human health, the hydrological cycle, and climate.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Atmospheric Science