Effects of time-dependent moisture content of surface sediments on aeolian transport rates across a beach, Wildwood, New Jersey, U.S.A.

Nancy L. Jackson, Karl F. Nordstrom

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

93 Scopus citations


A one-day field investigation on an unvegetated backbeach documents the importance of surface sediment drying to aeolian transport. Surface sediments were well sorted fine sand. Moisture content of samples taken in the moist areas on the backbeach varied from 2.9 to 9.2 percent. Lack of dry sediment inhibited transport prior to 08:50. By 09:10 conspicuous streamers of dry sand moved across the moist surface. Barchan-shaped bedforms, 30 to 40 mm high and composed of dry sand (moisture content <0.10 per cent), formed where sand streamers converged. The surface composed of dry sand increased from 5 per cent of the area of the backbeach at 09:50 to 90 per cent by 12:50. Mean wind speeds were between 5.6 and 8.6 m s-1 at 6 m above the backbeach. Corresponding shear velocities were always above the entrainment threshold for dry sand and below the threshold for the moist sand on the backbeach. Measured rates of sand trapped (by vertical cylindrical traps) increased during the day relative to calculated rates. The measured rate of sand trapped on the moist foreshore was higher than the rate trapped on the backbeach during the same interval, indicating that the moist foreshore (moisture content 18 per cent) was an efficient transport surface for sediment delivered from the dry portion of the beach upwind. Measured rates of sand trapped show no clear relationship to shear velocities unless time-dependent surface moisture content is considered. Results document conditions that describe transport across moist surfaces in terms of four stages including: (1) entrainment of moist sediment from a moist surface; (2) in situ drying of surface grains from a moist surface followed by transport across the surface; (3) entrainment and transport of dry sediment from bedforms that have accumulated on the moist surface; and (4) entrainment of sand from a dry upwind source and transport across a moist downwind surface.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)611-621
Number of pages11
JournalEarth Surface Processes and Landforms
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 1997

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Earth-Surface Processes
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)


  • Aeolian transport
  • Sand beach
  • Sand traps
  • Surface moisture
  • Wind speed


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