Surfaces impacted by water, not wind, are greater potential sources for dust at Keeler Dunes

Air Sciences and its partners have worked with the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power on mitigating dust in the Owens Valley of California for decades. The work of these experts is now being published in Aeolian Research as part of a larger investigation into the modern destabilization and migration of the Keeler Dunes Complex – a small shoreline dune system in the northeast corner of Owens (dry) Lake.

The article by Kolesar et al. discusses the characterization of potential fugitive dust emissions within the Keeler Dunes. Using a Portable In-Situ Wind Erosion Laboratory (PI-SWERL), researchers quantified the flux potential of particulate matter with diameters smaller than 10 micrometers in aerodynamic diameter (PM10). Stratified random sampling was used to evaluate potential PM10 fluxes from eight landforms, as determined by high-resolution satellite imagery and ground observations, found within the vicinity of the Keeler Dunes.

Map of study area with landform classes and sampling locations. Reprinted with permission from: Kolesar, K.R., Schaaf, M.D., Bannister, J.W., Schreuder, M.D., Heilmann, M.H., 2022. Characterization of potential fugitive dust emissions within the Keeler Dunes, an inland dune field in the Owens Valley, California, United States. Aeolian Research 54, 100765.

Within each landform, potential PM10 flux for one or more representative surface types was measured. The highest potential PM10 fluxes were from landforms with alluvial sediment, material (e.g., clay, silt, sand, gravel, or similar detrital material) deposited by running water. This finding is exciting because it bucks the common assumption that surfaces impacted by aeolian (relating to or arising from the action of wind) transport of sediment are more emissive than sediment deposited by alluvial processes. Researchers have been identifying surfaces impacted by water as major sources of dust emissions from desert landforms across the globe.

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