The longitudinal dunes of the Simpson Desert, in the vicinity of Birdsville, have been reworked largely during the Holocene from dunes deposited up to 80000 years ago or earlier. The widespread asymmetry of these roughly northward‐trending dunes, with steeper eastern faces and more gentle western faces, supports wind‐rose data showing sand‐transporting winds from the southwest obliquely intersecting the dunes. While this suggests a change in the wind pattern since the dune field was oriented, it does not indicate that the dunes are necessarily shifting leeward (eastward) as a consequence. It is hypothesized that the direction of migration is controlled by the extent to which the dunes are vegetated. Relatively well‐vegetated dunes can accrete sand on their gentle stoss slopes and erode on their lee slopes causing them to shift westward and hence obliquely into the wind, a condition that probably prevails in wetter regions and during episodes of relatively humid climate. In contrast, in very dry areas or during arid phases, sand can move unimpeded up a sparsely vegetated stoss face and over the crest to form an avalanche or slip face on the lee side, thereby causing the dunes to shift eastward. Despite evidence that longitudinal dune crests can shift laterally to some extent, the dunes in the western part of the Simpson Desert have not migrated, either westward or eastward, more than 100m or so from their Pleistocene cores. Aeolian transport and partial or complete removal of iron cutans from around quartz grains results in dunes of widely varying colour yet of similar age.
Earth Surface Processes and Landforms – Wiley
Published: Dec 1, 1992
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