Aeolian Sand Deposits

  • Henrik HargitaiEmail author
Living reference work entry


Granular Material Sand Dune Aeolian Sand Sand Transport Aeolian Deposit 
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Windblown and deposited granular material with particle sizes of 0.0625–2 mm.


A type of aeolian deposit.


This entry discusses sand deposits in general; details on bedforms and other aeolian deposits can be found in the appropriate entries.


Subtypes by organization:
  1. (1)
    1. (1.1)
    2. (1.2)
    3. (1.3)
  2. (2)
  3. (3)

    Drift deposits (Greeley et al. 2002)


Subtypes by Deposit Hierarchy

Sand systems are self-organized into a hierarchy of superimposed sand patterns (bedforms) (Lancaster 1995). These forms are in a state of quasi equilibrium state; they cannot grow into a form belonging to another hierarchical order (Sharp 1963).

Scales of aeolian sand bedforms:
  1. (1)

    Ripples (from smaller aerodynamic and larger impact ripples to megaripples): They are controlled by reptation flux (Anderson 1987).

  2. (2)

    (Simple/elementary/basic) dunes. Their formation is controlled by long-term wind trends.

  3. (3)

    Mega-dunes (giant, draa, compound, or complex dunes).



They are produced by the interaction between a fluid (shearing flow at the atmospheric boundary layer) and a granular material (sand) (Lancaster 1995, p. 44). With the exception of impact ripples, whose formation is controlled by grain impacts, all patterns form by aerodynamic instability, controlled by hydrodynamics. Sand grains are deposited where winds weaken below the sand transport threshold or where they are sheltered from the wind by a topographic obstacle. For details, see aeolian deposits, dune, and ripple.


Prominent Examples

The northern circumpolar sand sea (Erg) on Mars (Fig. 1).
Fig. 1

Frost-covered north polar barchan field, Mars. Scale bar 500 m. HiRISE ESP_016036_2650 (NASA/JPL/University of Arizona)


Aeolian sand dune systems are known to occur on Earth, Mars (Figs. 1 and 2), Venus, and Titan in a variety of atmospheric pressures, gravitational accelerations, grain and fluid compositions, and densities. Time and size scales may be largely different, but the dynamic processes are governed by the physics of the flow of liquids and erosion of bedrock which is consistent, scalable, and predictable. For this reason, the resulting landforms (dune morphologies) are similar (Bourke et al. 2010; Radebaugh et al. 2010).
Fig. 2

Transverse ridges (Gardin et al. 2012) west of Hellas Basin, Mars. Scale bar 500 m. HiRISE ESP_016036_1370 (NASA/JPL/University of Arizona)

Regional Variations

Terrestrial Analog

Volcaniclastic aeolian sand deposits in Iceland (Baratoux et al. 2011; Edgett and Lancaster 1993).

History of Investigation

Dunes on Mars were first recognized on Mariner 9 images in the early 1970s; dunes on Venus were identified from Magellan Mapping Mission (1990–1991). Dunes on Titan were mapped by Cassini Mission radar (2005–).


See Also


  1. Anderson RS (1987) A theoretical model for aeolian impact ripples. Sed. 34:943–956.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Baratoux D, Mangold N, Arnalds O, Bardintzeff J-M, Platevoët B, Grégoire M, Pinet P (2011) Volcanic sands of Iceland – diverse origins of aeolian sand deposits revealed at Dyngjusandur and Lambahraun. Earth Surf Process Land 36:1789–1808. doi:10.1002/esp.2201CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Bourke MC, Lancaster N, Fenton LK, Parteli EJR, Zimbelman JR, Radebaugh J (2010) Extraterrestrial dunes: an introduction to the special issue on planetary dune systems. Geomorphology 121:1–14CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Edgett KS, Lancaster L (1993) Volcaniclastic aeolian dunes: terrestrial examples and application to Martian sands. J Arid Environ 25:271–297. doi:10.1006/jare.1993.1061CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Gardin E, Allemand P, Quantin C, Silvestro S, Delacourt C (2012) Dune fields on Mars: recorders of a climate change? Planet Space Sci 60:314–321CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Greeley R, Bridges NT, Kuzmin RO, Laity JE (2002) Terrestrial analogs to wind-related features at the viking and pathfinder landing sites on Mars. J Geophys Res 107:E1. doi:10.1029/2000JE001481Google Scholar
  7. Lancaster N (1995) Dune morphology and morphometry. In: Geomorphology of desert dunes. Routledge, LondonGoogle Scholar
  8. Radebaugh J, Lorenz R, Farr T, Paillou P, Savage C, Spencer C (2010) Linear dunes on Titan and Earth: initial remote sensing comparison. Geomorphology 121:122–132CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Sharp RP (1963) Wind ripples. J Geol 71:617–636CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Planetary Science Research GroupEötvös Loránd University, Institute of Geography and Earth SciencesBudapestHungary