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Investigation of the age and migration of reversing dunes in Antarctica using GPR and OSL, with implications for GPR on Mars

Bristow, Charlie and Augustinus, Paul C. and Wallis, I. C. and Jol, H. M. and Rhodes, Edward (2010) Investigation of the age and migration of reversing dunes in Antarctica using GPR and OSL, with implications for GPR on Mars. ISSN 1385-013X

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Abstract

GPR provides high resolution images of aeolian strata in frozen sand in the McMurdo Dry Valleys of Antarctica. The results have positive implications for potential GPR surveys of aeolian strata on Mars. Within the Lower Victoria Valley, seasonal changes in climate and a topographically-constrained wind regime result in significant wind reversals. As a consequence, dunes show reversing crest-lines and flattened dune crests. Ground-penetrating radar (GPR) surveys of the dunes reveal sets of cross-strata and low-angle bounding surfaces produced by reversing winds. Summer sand transport appears to be dominant and this is attributed to the seasonal increase in solar radiation. Solar radiation which heats the valley floor melts ice cements making sand available for transport. At the same time, solar heating of the valley floor generates easterly winds that transport the sand, contributing to the resultant westward dune migration. The location of the dune field along the northern edge of the Lower Victoria Valley provides some shelter from the powerful föehn and katabatic winds that sweep down the valley. Topographic steering of the winds along the valley and drag against the valley wall has probably aided the formation, migration and preservation of the dune field. Optically-stimulated luminescence (OSL) ages from dune deposits range from 0 to 1.3 kyr showing that the dune field has been present for at least 1000 yr. The OSL ages are used to calculate end-point migration rates of 0.05 to 1.3 m/yr, which are lower than migration rates reported from recent surveys of the Packard dunes and lower than similar-sized dunes in low-latitude deserts. The relatively low rates of migration are attributed to a combination of dune crest reversal under a bimodal wind regime and ice cement that reduces dune deflation and restricts sand entrainment.

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