Dunes with relatively long and parallel crests are classified as linear dunes. On Earth, they form in at least two environmental settings: where winds of bimodal direction blow across loose sand, and also where single-direction winds blow over sediment that is locally stabilized, be it through vegetation, sediment cohesion or topographic shelter from the winds. Linear dunes have also been identified on Titan, where they are thought to form in loose sand. Here we present evidence that in the Qaidam Basin, China, linear dunes are found downwind of transverse dunes owing to higher cohesiveness in the downwind sediments, which contain larger amounts of salt and mud. We also present a compilation of other settings where sediment stabilization has been reported to produce linear dunes. We suggest that in this dune-forming process, loose sediment accumulates on the dunes and is stabilized; the stable dune then functions as a topographic shelter, which induces the deposition of sediments downwind. We conclude that a model in which Titan’s dunes formed similarly in cohesive sediments cannot be ruled out by the existing data.
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We thank A. Draut, J. Xu, and J. Warrick (all at USGS, Santa Cruz), J. Barnes (University of Idaho), and J. Radebaugh (Brigham Young University) for reviewing this manuscript and offering constructive comments. We also thank the Australian Academy of Science and the Chinese Academy of Science for funding and support, G. M. da Silva for analytical assistance, and M. L. Eggart for cartographic assistance.
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Rubin, D., Hesp, P. Multiple origins of linear dunes on Earth and Titan. Nature Geosci 2, 653–658 (2009). https://doi.org/10.1038/ngeo610
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