Nebkha flow dynamics and shadow dune formation

Patrick Hesp, Thomas Smyth

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    56 Citations (Scopus)


    In this study, wind flow is simulated via CFD over five ‘nebkha’ dune forms that range in shape from a cone, to a hemisphere (approximately) and to a dome in order to examine the structure of the wake zone formed downwind and the effect on the leeward flow separation zone and shadow dune formation. Dune height was fixed at 0.5 m while the nebkha diameter increased in 0.25 m increments from 0.5 m to 1.5 m and aspect ratio (h/D) from 1.0 to 0.3. The mean flow comprises an upwind region of reduced velocity which expands as nebkha width increases, high velocity marginal wings, and paired counter-rotating reversing vortices leeward of the nebkha. The point at which flow separation occurs moves further downwind as the nebkha diameter increases. The core regions of the reversing vortices are situated further downwind behind the smaller nebkha than in the case of the larger nebkha. These factors in combination allow for higher velocity perturbations (TKE) and narrower wake behind the smaller nebkha, and the suppression of downwind wake development in the case of the increasingly larger nebkha. Shadow dune length increases as nebkha width increases for lower incident velocity flow and is barely affected by nebkha width at higher flows. The extent of the leeward separation or wake zone, and hence shadow dune length, more strongly varies as a function of wind velocity.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)27-38
    Number of pages12
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2017


    • CFD flow modelling
    • Nebkha
    • Shadow dune morphology
    • Shadow dunes


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