Tiny underwater dunes may reveal the formation of Mars’ landforms

(ORDO NEWS) — Scientists have carried out detailed modeling of the formation of tiny dunes that form on the seabed.

So it was possible to trace the trajectory of the movement of individual grains of sand under the influence of water flows.

In the future, the results of the study can be used to describe the longer-term evolution of huge dunes in the deserts of the Earth and Mars.

Scientists from the University of Campinas (Brazil) and the University of California at Los Angeles (USA) have studied the formation of dunes in detail.

This is the name of the dunes – sandy hills formed by the wind, having the shape of a crescent. This type of relief is presented in a wide variety of landscapes and sizes.

Tiny dunes just a few centimeters long form on the ocean floor, in the deserts of the Earth, and on the surface of Mars they spread for many kilometers and reach hundreds of meters in height.

Until now, scientists have not carried out calculations and modeling of the growth and evolution of dunes, which can form for years on Earth and millennia on the Red Planet.

Calculations tracking every grain of sand in the dune remained impossible.

However, now researchers have managed to do this using the example of tiny dunes on the ocean floor, which, under the influence of water, form much faster than dunes on land.

They used CFD-DEM (Computational Fluid Dynamics/Discrete Element Method) modeling to determine the morphology of the dunes, describe the movements of individual grains of sand, and the parameters of the fluid flows that affect them.

The authors of the work applied the equations of motion to each grain of sand in a tiny dune deformed by a fluid flow.

The simulation results were compared with the behavior of real dunes in the aquatic environment. The study paves the way for further study of barchan formation.

Changes in the Martian and terrestrial reliefs under the influence of the wind occur on a much larger scale of time and distance than in the aquatic environment, in which dunes a few centimeters long appear in a matter of minutes. Nevertheless, the dynamics of their formation is largely similar.

Now scientists will be able to use large computing resources to model dunes on Earth and other planets that form over decades or millennia.

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