Characterizing Vertical Mass Flux Profiles in Aeolian Saltation Systems



Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title



This dissertation investigates characteristics of the vertical distributions of mass flux observed in field and laboratory experiments. Thirty vertical mass flux profiles were measured during a field experiment in Jericoacoara, Brazil from October to November, 2008. These data were supplemented with 621 profiles gathered from an extensive review of the aeolian literature. From the field experiment, the analysis of the grain-size statistics for the flux caught in each trap shows that a reverse in grain-size trends occurs at an inflection zone located 0.05 ? 0.15 m above the bed. Below this inflection, mean grain-size decreases steeply with elevation in the near bed region dominated by reptation and saltation modes of transport. Above the inflection there is a coarsening of grain size with elevation; as saltation becomes the dominant transport mode. These results indicate that the coarsest grains are found close to and farthest from the bed.

Using a data set comprising 274 vertical flux profiles, the performance of the exponential, power and logarithmic functions were tested to see which provided the best fit to the vertical flux distributions. The exponential function performed best 88% of the time. The average r2 value for the grouped exponential, logarithmic, and power function fits are 0.98, 0.85 and 0.91, respectively. The populations of the exponent coefficients, representing the relative rate of decrease with height above the surface, or slope of the vertical mass flux profiles, are statistically different in wind tunnels and field experiments. The slopes of the vertical flux profiles observed in wind tunnel experiments are steeper compared to field environments, which infers that saltation is suppressed in wind tunnels. These differences are magnified in wind tunnels with small working cross section areas, and in wind tunnel experiments that use extreme environmental conditions, such as very high shear velocities.

The Rouse concentration model, widely used in water studies, was tested to see if it could replicate the observed vertical flux distributions and transport rates. A fall velocity (w0) equation for particles falling in air was derived using a grain size (d) dependency: w0 (in m/s) = 4.23d (in mm) + 0.1956 (r^2=0.88). The Rouse model performs poorly when the value of the beta (a form of the Schmidt number in the Rouse number exponent) is assumed to be unity. The values of beta were modeled using a relationship derived from a dependency of beta on the w0/u* ratio: beta = 3.2778(w0/u*) - 0.4133 (r^2=0.65). The values of beta ranged from 6.11 ? 17.83 for all the experiments. The Rouse profiles calculated using this approach predict very similar vertical distributions to the observed data and predicted 86% and 81% of the observed transport rate in field and wind tunnel experiments respectively. The Rouse approach is more physically meaningful than current approaches that use standard curve fitting functions to represent the vertical flux data but do not provide any explanatory power for the shape or magnitude of the profile.