BIG DATA MEETS BIG DUNES – A 21ST CENTURY APPROACH TO UNDERSTANDING DUNE SYSTEM DYNAMICS ON MULTIPLE SPATIAL AND TEMPORAL SCALES
Since that time, there have been major advances in our understanding of the processes and dynamics of aeolian sand systems, through application of technological and methodological advances in remote sensing, geochemistry, geophysics, and dating. In parallel, there has been an explosion in numerical models for dunes and dune systems, which are providing many new insights, but require verification with empirical data. These new and emerging trends provide a wealth of data with which to develop and test new models for aeolian system dynamics and their response to changes in boundary conditions, but the information required to provide such an understanding is dispersed and has yet to be synthesized in a meaningful way.
A data-intensive approach is required to explore multiple-scale field, remote sensing, and modeling datasets to inform dune system response to climate change, past and future. This approach requires a global geographic database of dune morphology, chronology, and stratigraphy for low and mid latitude desert dune systems, which also incorporates pertinent information on the topographic and geologic context of each system. Such an approach has proved transformative in other fields of earth system science, most notably in relation to Distributive Fluvial Systems, and builds on existing synthesis projects including the INQUA Dune Atlas project and the Namib Sand Sea Digital database.