The giant linear dunes that stretch across the surface of China's Qaidam Basin are composed of sticky sediments, and are formed by winds coming from a single direction, according to a study published online this week in Nature Geoscience. These findings may offer an alternative interpretation of similar dunes formed on the surface of Titan, Saturn's largest moon.
David Rubin and Patrick Hesp found that a second type of dune ― arc-shaped and composed of loose, sandy sediments ― also forms in the Qaidam basin, even though both types of dune are exposed to the same winds from the northwest.
Rubin and Hesp suggest that if the giant linear dunes found on the surface of Titan are also formed from sticky sediment, they could be an indication of single-direction wind there. This is in contrast to earlier studies, which assumed that the sediments were loose, and interpreted the dune shape as evidence of winds coming from alternating directions.