Interaction between unvegetated desert surfaces and the atmospheric boundary layer: a preliminary assessment

  • N. Lancaster
  • R. Greeley
  • K. R. Rasmussen
Part of the Acta Mechanica Supplementum book series (ACTA MECH.SUPP., volume 2)


The nature of interactions between surface winds and natural desert surfaces has important implications for aeolian sediment transport. We report here initial results from measurements of boundary layer wind profiles and surface roughness at 5 sites in Death Valley, U.S.A. and discuss their implications. The sites studied were a flat to gently undulating gravel and sand reg, three alluvial fan surfaces, including one with a well-developed desert pavement, and a silt and clay playa. Aerodynamic roughness estimates range from 0.00018 to 0.00537 m and increase in parallel with the visual estimates of topographic roughness at each site. Microtopography was measured with template and laser profiling devices. The standard deviation of surface elevations (RMS height) appears to provide a good index of surface roughness. It correlates well with field observations of topographic roughness and aerodynamic roughness estimates.


Atmospheric Boundary Layer Wind Profile Bulk Richardson Number Laser Data Template Data 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. [1]
    Greeley, R., Iversen, J. D.: Measurements of wind friction speeds over lava surfaces and assessment of sediment transport. Geophys. Res. Lett. 14, 925–928 (1987).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. [2]
    Greeley, R., Lancaster, N., Sullivan, R. J., Saunders, R. S., Theilig, E., Wall, S., Dobrovolskis, A., White, B. R., Iversen, J. D.: A relationship between radar backscatter and aerodynamic roughness: preliminary results. Geophys. Res. Lett. 15, 565–568 (1988).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. [3]
    Lyles, L., Schrandt, R. L., Schneidler, N. F.: How aerodynamic roughness elements control sand movement. Trans. Am. Soc. Agr. Eng. 17, 134–139 (1974).Google Scholar
  4. [4]
    Greeley, R., Iversen, J. D.: Wind as a geological process, p. 333. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 1985.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. [5]
    Gillette, D. A., Adams, J., Endo, A., Smith, D.: Threshold velocities for the input of soil particles into the air by desert soils. J. Geophys. Res. 85, 5621–5630 (1980).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. [6]
    Fleagle, R. G., Businger, J. A.: An introduction to atmospheric physics, p.432. New York: Academic Press 1980.Google Scholar
  7. [7]
    Hoström, U.: Non-dimensional wind and temperature profiles in the atmospheric surface layer: a re-evaluation. Boundary Layer Meteorol. 42, 55–78 (1988).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. [8]
    Rasmussen, K. R. Some aspects of flow over noastal sand dunes Proc. Roy. Soc. Edinburgh. Series B, (1990).Google Scholar
  9. [9]
    Garratt, J. R.: Flux profile relations above tall vegetation Quart. J. Roy. Met. Soc. 104, 199–211 (1978).Google Scholar
  10. [10]
    Bagnold, R. A.: The physics of blown sand desert dunes, p. 265. London: Chapman and Hall 1941.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Wien 1991

Authors and Affiliations

  • N. Lancaster
    • 1
  • R. Greeley
    • 1
  • K. R. Rasmussen
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of GeologyArizona State, UniversityTempeUSA

Personalised recommendations