Impacts of Climate Change on Desert Dunes

Theme: Earth, Atmosphere & Ocean Processes

Primary Supervisor:

Andreas Baas

Department of Geography, KCL

Andreas Baas's Profile Picture

Secondary Supervisor:

Emma Tebbs

Department of Geography, KCL

Emma Tebbs's Profile Picture

Project Description:

Sand dunes in arid regions around the world are conspicuous mobile landforms which require adaptation and mitigation strategies for protecting human infrastructure and economic assets from encroachment, and which play a significant role in desertification and atmospheric dust emissions.

Analysis of the most recent climate change predictions is showing that many sand seas and dune fields may change in their appearance and migration behaviour due to changes in wind regime resulting from global warming. We don’t know, however, how future changes in rainfall patterns and drought may lead to the re-activation of currently vegetated dunes, and we also don’t know the precise boundaries between different dune behaviours.

This project will involve analysis of Global Climate Model data (‘Big Data’) to explore climate change impacts for the end of this century on wind regime, rainfall, and soil moisture to map future changes in dune mobility around the world. The work will include developing and calibrating a model for predicting dune mobility and behaviour, constrained by detailed Remote Sensing analysis of current sand seas and dune field imagery in Google Earth.

Policy Impact of Research:

Predicted changes in future dune mobility are immediately relevant to planning for and management of dune encroachment hazards on transportation infrastructure, industry, and urban development in desert regions. Re-activation of currently dormant dunefields may also significantly increase dust emissions into the atmosphere, with further climate change impacts.

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