Aeolian sand transport on beaches and in dune environments shows a great spatial and temporal variability that has important implications for modeling and monitoring of coastal systems. Yet there have been few quantifications or statistical characteristics of transport variability in natural environments. Transport variability can result from bed surface control in the form of differentiation in grain size, surface moisture, and microtopography, or can be induced by fluid forcing in the form of gusts, burst-sweep events, and streamwise vortices. A field experiment was conducted on a coastal dune near Guadalupe, California, to quantify transport variability over spatial scales of 0.1–4.0 m and temporal scales of 1–120 seconds. Results show that spanwise (lateral) variability increases with spatial scale and decreases with temporal scale. Minimum transport variability over the smallest distances and longest time scales is on the order of 30%, providing error margins for transportrate measurements and model extrapolations. Variability reaches a maximum level at spatial scales larger than roughly half the boundary-layer height. In relation to shear velocity, greatest variability is found near the transport threshold and smallest variability occurs during periods of high shear velocities.

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