Numerical study of turbulent flow over complex aeolian dune fields: The White Sands National Monument

William Anderson, Marcelo Chamecki

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Scopus citations


The structure and dynamics of fully developed turbulent flows responding to aeolian dune fields are studied using large-eddy simulation with an immersed boundary method. An aspect of particular importance in these flows is the downwind migration of coherent motions associated with Kelvin-Helmholtz instabilities that originate at the dune crests. These instabilities are responsible for enhanced downward transport of high-momentum fluid via the so-called turbulent sweep mechanism. However, the presence of such structures and their role in determining the bulk characteristics of fully developed dune field sublayer aerodynamics have received relatively limited attention. Moreover, many existing studies address mostly symmetric or mildly asymmetric dune forms. The White Sands National Monument is a field of aeolian gypsum sand dunes located in the Tularosa Basin in southern New Mexico. Aeolian processes at the site result in a complex, anisotropic dune field. In the dune field sublayer, the flow statistics resemble a mixing layer: At approximately the dune crest height, vertical profiles of streamwise velocity exhibit an inflection and turbulent Reynolds stresses are maximum; below this, the streamwise and vertical velocity fluctuations are positively and negatively skewed, respectively. We evaluate the spatial structure of Kelvin-Helmholtz instabilities present in the dune field sublayer (shear length Ls and vortex spacing Λx) and show that Λx=mduneLs, where mdune≈7.2 in the different sections considered (for turbulent mixing layers, 7<m<10 [M. M. Rogers and R. D. Moser, Phys. Fluids A 6, 903 (1994)]).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number013005
JournalPhysical Review E - Statistical, Nonlinear, and Soft Matter Physics
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 9 2014

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Statistical and Nonlinear Physics
  • Statistics and Probability
  • Condensed Matter Physics


Dive into the research topics of 'Numerical study of turbulent flow over complex aeolian dune fields: The White Sands National Monument'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this