Numerical modelling of flow structures over idealized transverse aeolian dunes of varying geometry

Daniel R. Parsons, Ian J. Walker, Giles F.S. Wiggs

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

154 Scopus citations


A Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) model (PHOENICS™ 3.5) previously validated for wind tunnel measurements is used to simulate the streamwise and vertical velocity flow fields over idealized transverse dunes of varying height ( h ) and stoss slope basal length ( L ). The model accurately reproduced patterns of: flow deceleration at the dune toe; stoss flow acceleration; vertical lift in the crest region; lee-side flow separation, re-attachment and reversal; and flow recovery distance. Results indicate that the flow field over transverse dunes is particularly sensitive to changes in dune height, with an increase in height resulting in flow deceleration at the toe, streamwise acceleration and vertical lift at the crest, and an increase in the extent of, and strength of reversed flows within, the lee-side separation cell. In general, the length of the separation zone varied from 3 to 15 h from the crest and increased over taller, steeper dunes. Similarly, the flow recovery distance ranged from 45 to >75 h and was more sensitive to changes in dune height. For the range of dune shapes investigated in this study, the differing effects of height and stoss slope length raise questions regarding the applicability of dune aspect ratio as a parameter for explaining airflow over transverse dunes. Evidence is also provided to support existing research on: streamline curvature and the maintenance of sand transport in the toe region; vertical lift in the crest region and its effect on grainfall delivery; relations between the turbulent shear layer and downward forcing of flow re-attachment; and extended flow recovery distances beyond the separation cell. Field validation is required to test these findings in natural settings. Future applications of the model will characterize turbulence and shear stress fields, examine the effects of more complex isolated dune forms and investigate flow over multiple dunes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)149-164
Number of pages16
Issue number1-4
StatePublished - Apr 2 2004
Externally publishedYes


  • Aeolian
  • Aspect ratio
  • Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD)
  • Dunes
  • Flow acceleration
  • Flow recovery
  • Flow reversal
  • Flow separation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Earth-Surface Processes


Dive into the research topics of 'Numerical modelling of flow structures over idealized transverse aeolian dunes of varying geometry'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this