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Anthropogenic and environmental controls of barchan dune dynamics in Qatar

TitleAnthropogenic and environmental controls of barchan dune dynamics in Qatar
Publication TypeConference Paper
Year of Publication2018
AuthorsEngel, M, Boesl, F, Brückner, H
Conference NameBOOK OF ABSTRACTS - Central European Conference on Geomorphology and Quaternary Sciences Joint Conference of AKG and DEUQUA University of Giessen, Germany September 23 – 27, 2018

Barchan dunes are crescentic aeolian landforms of loose, mostly well-sorted sand with a convex side directed upwind and two horns pointing downwind. Their migration is mainly controlled by sand supply, dune size, wind patterns, vegetation cover and human impact. In Qatar, their distribution is limited to the southeastern part of the peninsula, where they play an important role for tourism and camping activities among locals. We investigate the variability of dune migration in Qatar over a time period of 50 years using high-resolution satellite and aerial imagery. We then explore its relation to the regional Shamal wind system (NNW–SSE), teleconnection patterns, and limitations in sand supply associated with the transgression of the Arabian Gulf, which explain the fact that Qatar is gradually being stripped from aeolian landforms with a remaining dune population in the southeast. Strong size-dependent differences in migration rates of individual dunes as well as significant decadal variability on a dune-field scale are detected, the latter closely correlating with summer Shamal activity. The summer Shamal itself is mainly driven by pressure differences between the stationary anticyclone over the eastern Mediterranean and the established summer heat low over Iran and adjacent areas. It seems to be related to the intensity of the North Atlantic Oscillation and the Indian Summer Monsoon, in particular during years of relatively strong (weak) summer Shamals. High uncertainties associated with the extrapolation of migration rates back into the Holocene, however, do not permit further refining of the timing of the loss of sand supply and the onset of the mid-Holocene relative sea-level (RSL) highstand. For the youngest phase considered in this study (2006–2015), human impact has significantly accelerated dune migration under a more or less stable Shamal regime through systematic sand mining and excessive vehicle traffic upwind of the core study area, which started in 2007.

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