Turbulent Shear Flow Over Large Martian Ripples

Hezi Yizhaq, Arik Siminovich, Itzhak Katra, Avi Levy, Robert Sullivan, Simone Silverstro, Alexander Yakhot

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


On Mars, large aeolian ripples with wavelengths typically 1–3 m but lacking very coarse sand at crests have been encountered by rovers and observed from orbit. These bedforms have no terrestrial counterpart and several hypotheses for origins have been proposed. This work reports results of Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) experiments with ANSYS Fluent under terrestrial and Martian boundary layer conditions, using the k − ω SST turbulence model to evaluate shear stress along a topographic profile of large Martian ripples at different boundary layer wind speeds. Results indicate that, compared with Earth conditions: (1) boundary-layer flow along large ripples under Martian conditions is less turbulent due to higher kinematic viscosity; (2) reverse-flow vortex regions from crests at ripple lee flanks are larger; and (3) shear stresses at crests of large ripples are relatively low, so ripple flattening is less likely at high wind speeds. These results indicate Martian ripples formed by the saltation impact splash mechanism should be less constrained by shear stress effects limiting growth of exposed ripple crests, because the low-density Martian atmosphere applies relatively low wind-related shear stress to ripple surfaces. Other origins for the large Martian ripples are not excluded, however. On Earth, very large ripples with crests unprotected by very coarse grains do not develop due to higher wind-related shear stresses.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere2020JE006515
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Planets
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1 Feb 2021


  • ANSYS Fluent
  • impact ripples
  • large ripples
  • Mars
  • Reynolds number
  • saltation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geochemistry and Petrology
  • Geophysics
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Space and Planetary Science


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