Abstract

The integration of atmospheric soundings from a fully instrumented aircraft with detailed sedimentary and geomorphic analyses of eolian features in the Ferris dune field of south-central Wyoming lends insight into the manner in which topography interacts with airflow to modify eolian activity. Topographically modified airflow results in zones of airflow deceleration, acceleration, and enhanced atmospheric turbulence, all of which influence the surface morphology and sedimentology. Extreme lateral confluence of prevailing airflow produces accelerated, unidirectional winds. These winds correlate with unusually continuous and elongate parabolic dunes that extend into a mountain gap (Windy Gap). Persistently heightened winds produced at the entrance to Windy Gap have resulted in a concentration of active sand dunes that lack slipfaces. Common development of a strongly amplified atmospheric wave analogous to a hydraulic jump in the gap contributes to the formation of a variety of eolian features that mantle the surface of Windy Gap and the Ferris dune field tail. Heightened, unidirectional winds in this zone promote grain-size segregation, the formation of elongated and aligned sand drifts, climbing and falling dunes, elongate scour streaks, and parabolic dunes that have low-angle (<20°) cross-stratification. Deflation of bedrock and loose sediment has been enhanced in the zone of maximum turbulence beneath the hydraulic jump.

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