Sand dunes rarely occur in isolation, but usually form vast dune fields. The large scale dynamics of these fields is hitherto poorly understood, not least due to the lack of longtime observations. Theoretical models usually abstract dunes in a field as self-propelled autonomous agents, exchanging mass, either remotely or as a consequence of collisions. In contrast to the spirit of these models, here we present experimental evidence that aqueous dunes interact over large distances without the necessity of exchanging mass. Interactions are mediated by turbulent structures forming in the wake of a dune, and lead to dune-dune repulsion, which can prevent collisions. We conjecture that a similar mechanism may be present in wind driven dunes, potentially explaining the observed robust stability of dune fields in different environments.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Physics and Astronomy(all)