Development and testing of a micro wind tunnel for on-site wind erosion simulations
2016-09-02T13:08:44Z (GMT) by
Wind erosion processes affect soil surfaces across all land uses worldwide. Understanding the spatial and temporal scales of wind erosion is a challenging undertaking because these processes are diverse and highly variable. Wind tunnels provide a useful tool as they can be used to simulate erosion at small spatial scales. Portable wind tunnels are particularly valued because erosion can be simulated on undisturbed soil surfaces in the field. There has been a long history of use of large portable wind tunnels, with consensus that these wind erosion simulation tools can meet real world aerodynamic criteria. However, one consequence of striving to meet aerodynamic reality is that the size of the tunnels has increased, making them logistically difficult to work with in the field and resulting in a tendency to homogenise naturally complex soil surfaces. This homogenisation is at odds with an increasing awareness of the importance that small scale processes have in wind erosion. To address these logistical and surface homogenisation issues we present here the development and testing of a micro wind tunnel (MWT) designed to simulate wind erosion processes at high spatial resolution. The MWT is a duct-type design—0.05 m tall 0.1 m wide and with a 1.0 m working section. The tunnel uses a centrifugal motor to suck air through a flow‐conditioning section, over the working section and then through a sediment collection trap. Simulated wind velocities range from 5 to 18 m s−1, with high reproducibility. Wind speeds are laterally uniform and values of u * at the tunnel bed (calculated by measuring the pressure gradients within the MWT) are comparable with those of larger tunnels in which logarithmic profiles can be developed. Saltation sediment can be added. The tunnel can be deployed by a single person and operated on slopes ranging from 0 to 10°. Evidence is presented here that the MWT provides new and useful understanding of the erodibility of rangelands, claypans and ore stockpiles.