Scaling laws in aeolian sand transport

Phys Rev Lett. 2011 Mar 4;106(9):094501. doi: 10.1103/PhysRevLett.106.094501. Epub 2011 Mar 1.


We report on wind tunnel measurements on saltating particles in a turbulent boundary layer and provide evidence that over an erodible bed the particle velocity in the saltation layer and the saltation length are almost invariant with the wind strength, whereas over a nonerodible bed these quantities vary significantly with the air friction speed. It results that the particle transport rate over an erodible bed does not exhibit a cubic dependence with the air friction speed, as predicted by Bagnold, but a quadratic one. This contrasts with saltation over a nonerodible bed where the cubic Bagnold scaling holds. Our findings emphasize the crucial role of the boundary conditions at the bed and may have important practical consequences for aeolian sand transport in a natural environment.