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Reveal weather on alien planets, via sand dunes

Posted on Jan 14 2014 | IANS

London, Jan 14 : The wind change during sand dune formation may reveal weather on alien planets.

By paying close attention to sand dune formation on other planets, astronomers can develop a system to at least know which way the wind is blowing, says a new research.

Led by Clement Narteau of the Global Institute for Physics in Paris, a team of researchers flattened 160,000 square metres of sand dunes in the Tengger desert of Inner Mongolia, China.

Over next three and a half years, the researchers watched how the desert winds re-formed the dunes, revealing information about the prevailing winds, said the research published in the journal Nature Geoscience and reported by New Scientist.

To understand the phenomenon, the researchers tracked two seasonal prevailing winds that both contributed to the dunes' shapes and orientation.

The dunes' orientation turned into a "compromise" between the two different prevailing wind directions, strength and duration, said the study.

"Our landscape-scale experiment suggests that the alignment of aeolian dunes can be used to determine wind forcing patterns on earth and other planets," claimed Clement.

Mars and the Saturnian moon 'Titan' are known to have vast dune fields, shaped by persistent wind-shaping (aeolian) processes.

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