Threshold wind velocity dynamics as a driver of aeolian sediment mass flux

TitleThreshold wind velocity dynamics as a driver of aeolian sediment mass flux
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2016
AuthorsWebb N, Galloza M, Zobeck TM, Herrick JE
JournalAeolian Research
Start Page45
Date Published03/2016
Accession NumberJRN54495
ARIS Log Number319938
Keywordsdust, erodibility, supply limitation, transport sediment flux, wind erosion

Horizontal (saltation) mass flux is a key driver of aeolian dust emission. Estimates of the horizontal mass flux underpin assessments of the global dust budget and influence our understanding of the dust cycle and its interactions. Current equations for predicting horizontal mass flux are based on limited field data and are constrained to representing transport-limited equilibrium saltation, driven by the wind momentum flux in excess of an entrainment threshold. This can result in large overestimation of the sediment mass flux. Here we compare measurements of the soil entrainment threshold, horizontal mass flux, and their temporal variability for five undisturbed dryland soils to explore the role of threshold in controlling the magnitude of the mass flux. Average and median entrainment threshold showed relatively small variability among sites and relatively small variability between seasons, despite significant differences in soil surface conditions. Physical and biological soil crusts had little effect on the threshold value, and threshold appeared to play a minor role in determining the magnitude of the mass flux. Our results suggest that horizontal mass flux was controlled more by the supply limitation and abrasion efficiency of saltators present as loose erodible material or originating from neighboring soil sources. The omission of sediment supply and explicit representation of saltation bombardment from horizontal flux equations is inconsistent with the process representation in dust emission schemes and contributes to uncertainty in model predictions. This uncertainty can be reduced by developing greater process fidelity in models to predict horizontal mass flux under both supply- and transport-limited conditions.