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Solitary wave behaviour of sand dunes

Colliding dunes appear to traverse through one another and emerge unscathed.


Barchan sand dunes are highly mobile, crescent-shaped dunes that occur in areas where sand is sparse and the wind is unidirectional. Here we show mathematically how two such loose-grained dunes are able to pass through one another while still preserving their shape. The crucial parameters for this solitary-wave behaviour, which is consistent with field observations, are the heights of the two colliding dunes.

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Figure 1
Figure 2: Time series of the solitary-wave behaviour of two barchan sand dunes placed one in front of the other.


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Correspondence to Veit Schwämmle.

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Schwämmle, V., Herrmann, H. Solitary wave behaviour of sand dunes. Nature 426, 619–620 (2003).

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