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Journal of Arid Land  2020, Vol. 12 Issue (3): 436-446    DOI: 10.1007/s40333-020-0102-x
Research article     
Fetch effect on the developmental process of aeolian sand transport in a wind tunnel
CHEN Zongyan1,2, XIAO Fengjun1,*(), DONG Zhibao1
1 School of Geography and Tourism, Shaanxi Normal University, Xi'an 710119, China
2 College of Geographic Science, Qinghai Normal University, Xining 810008, China
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As the sand mass flux increases from zero at the leading edge of a saltating surface to the equilibrium mass flux at the critical fetch length, the wind flow is modified and then the relative contribution of aerodynamic and bombardment entrainment is changed. In the end the velocity, trajectory and mass flux profile will vary simultaneously. But how the transportation of different sand size groups varies with fetch distance is still unclear. Wind tunnel experiments were conducted to investigate the fetch effect on mass flux and its distribution with height of the total sand and each size group in transportation. The mass flux was measured at six fetch length locations (0.5, 1.2, 1.9, 2.6, 3.4 and 4.1 m) and at three free-stream wind velocities (8.8, 12.2 and 14.5 m/s). The results reveal that the total mass flux and the mass flux of each size group with height can be expressed by q=aexp(-bh), where q is the sand mass flux at height h, and a and b are regression coefficients. The coefficient b represents the relative decay rate. Both the relative decay rates of total mass flux and each size group are independent of fetch length after a quick decay over a short fetch. This is much shorter than that of mass flux. The equilibrium of the relative decay rate cannot be regarded as an equilibrium mass flux profile for aeolian sand transport. The mass fluxes of 176.0, 209.3 and 148.0 μm size groups increase more quickly than that of other size groups, which indicates strong size-selection of grains exists along the fetch length. The maximal size group in mass flux (176.0 μm) is smaller than the maximal size group of the bed grains (209.3 μm). The relative contribution of each size group to the total mass flux is not monotonically decreasing with grain size due to the lift-off of some small grains being reduced due to the protection by large grains. The results indicate that there are complex interactions among different size groups in the developmental process of aeolian sand transport and more attention should be focused on the fetch effect because it has different influences on the total mass flux, the mass flux profile and its relative decay rate.

Key wordsfetch length      mass flux profile      grain size distribution      sand transport      wind tunnel experiment     
Received: 18 October 2019      Published: 10 May 2020
Corresponding Authors: Fengjun XIAO     E-mail:
About author: *Corresponding author: XIAO Fengjun (E-mail:
Cite this article:

CHEN Zongyan, XIAO Fengjun, DONG Zhibao. Fetch effect on the developmental process of aeolian sand transport in a wind tunnel. Journal of Arid Land, 2020, 12(3): 436-446.

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Fig. 1 Layout of the instrumentation for the wind tunnel experiment. Uf0 is the free-stream wind velocity; and A-F are fetch length locations.
Fig. 2 Variation of the sand mass flux profiles with fetch length under different free-stream wind velocity
Fig. 3 Variation of the total sand mass flux and the relative decay rate with fetch length
Fig. 4 Variation of the sand mass flux profiles of different grain size groups with fetch length. di is the diameter (μm) of a size group.
Fig. 5 Variation of the relative decay rate of different size groups with different fetch length locations. Total means the relative decay rate of total sand.
Fig. 6 Variation of the total mass flux (Qi) of different size groups (di) with different fetch length
Fig. 7 Variation of the mean grain size with fetch length
Fig. 8 Trend of fh,i/fbed,i at different heights and with grain-size distribution of bed grains. fh,i/fbed,i is the ratio of the mass fraction of a certain size group (di) in transportation (fh,i) to that in the bed grains (fbed,i). L, fetch length.
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