Whole-island wind bifurcation and localized topographic steering: impacts on aeolian dune dynamics

Alex Smith, DWT Jackson, Andrew Cooper, Meiring Beyers, Colin Breen

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3 Citations (Scopus)
205 Downloads (Pure)


Topographic steering has been observed around Gran Canaria, a high-profile circular island located in the Canary Island Archipelago, Spain, culminating in a complex lee-side wind regime at the Maspalomas dunefield. Maspalomas has experienced rapid environmental changes since the 1960s, coincident with a boom in the tourism industry in the region and requires further examination on the linkages between meso-scale airflow patterns and aeolian processes modifying the landscape. The aim of this work is to simulate mean and turbulent airflow conditions at Maspalomas due to incremental changes in the regional wind direction and to compare these results to the predicted and observed aeolian dynamics taken from meteorological records, a global wind retro-analysis model, and remote sensing data. A Smagorinsky Large Eddy Simulation (S-LES) model was used to identify meso-scale airflow perturbations and turbulence at different locations around the island. Variability in meteorological data was also identified, with sites recording accelerated or retarded velocities and directional distributions ranging between unimodal to bimodal. Using a global retro-analysis model, relatively consistent up-wind conditions were predicted over a period coinciding with three aerial LiDAR surveys (i.e., 2006, 2008, and 2011) at the Maspalomas dunefield. Despite the consistent predicted airflow conditions, dune migration rates dropped from 7.26 m y−1 to 2.80 m y−1 and 28% of dunes experienced crest reversal towards the east, or opposite of the primary westerly migration direction during the second time period. Our results indicate that meso-scale airflow steering alters local wind conditions that can modify sediment transport gradients at Maspalomas. Given the rapidity of environmental changes and anthropogenic impacts at Maspalomas, these findings improve our understanding on the aeolian dynamics at Maspalomas and can be used to inform future management strategies. Lastly, the approach used in this study could be applied to other high-profile island settings or similarly complex aeolian environments.
Original languageEnglish
Article number144444
Pages (from-to)1-17
Number of pages17
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Early online date25 Dec 2020
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 1 Apr 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors would like to thank Luis Hern?ndez-Calvento and the Universidad de Las Palmas de Gran Canaria (ULPGC) for providing resources and logistical support. Research funding was provided by a Ulster University Vice Chancellor's Research Scholarship (VCRS). This work is a contribution towards the project ?Caracterizaci?n de procesos socio-ecol?gicos de los sistemas playa-dunas de Canarias como base para su gesti?n sostenible?, CSO2013-43256-R funded by the R&D+I (innovation) Spanish National Programme and a contribution to the UK Natural Environment Research Council grant NE/F019483/1.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 The Authors


  • Dunes
  • Aeolian
  • Computational fluid dynamics (CFD)
  • Remote sensing


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