Scientific Colloquium
January 24, 2014

"Dune Worlds - How Windblown Sand Shapes Planetary Landscapes"

Dramatic progress has been made in recent years in understanding sand dunes, a landform recognized on Earth, Mars, Titan and Venus (and prominent in fictional worlds too). Ever-improving remote sensing data allows us not only to map the extent and morphology of these beautiful features, but also assay their composition, and observe their changes, with dune movements now documented on Mars and Tatooine as well as Earth. Field data gives new insights into the nonsteady turbulent processes that move sand. Computer simulations and laboratory experiments now allow us to quantitatively relate dune forms to the wind regime that create them, opening a window into the past climates of other worlds as well as our own. This talk will summarize recent developments in aeolian studies, illustrated with a wide range of field, satellite and kite-borne imagery. .

About the speaker:

Thomson-Reuters Sciencewatch in 2011 named Ralph Lorenz as one of the world's top planetary scientists by impact, ranking him #3 by publications and #10 by citations (>2200). He holds 5 NASA Group Achievement awards. He is lead author of the book 'Dune Worlds: How Windblown Sand Shapes Planetary Landscapes' published by Springer in early 2014, as well as several other books including 'Lifting Titan's Veil','Spinning Flight', and 'Space Systems Failures'.

Lorenz led the Science paper in 2006 which discovered sand dunes in Cassini radar images of Saturn's moon Titan. He has visited dunes in the Namib, Arabian and Sahara, as well as US and Australian deserts. His other current research includes Titan oceanography, as well as dust devils and seismic measurements on Mars, and balloon dynamics on Venus.

Lorenz is on the Principal Professional Staff of the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory. Prior to joining APL in 2006 he was at the Lunar and Planetary Lab, University of Arizona. Lorenz has a B.Eng. in Aerospace Systems Engineering from the University of Southampton in the UK and a Ph.D. in Physics in 1994 from the University of Kent at Canterbury.

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