29 Octobre – Thesis defense - Royston Fernandes

14 h Amphi - INRA Villenave-d'Ornon

Wind erosion in presence of vegetation.

Atmospheric mineral dust resulting from aeolian soil erosion affects the Earth system. Their size-distribution (PSD) plays a key role on atmospheric radiation balance, cloud formation, atmospheric chemistry, and the productivity of terrestrial and marine ecosystems. However, climate models still fail to reproduce accurately the suspended dust PSD. This is explained by the poor representation of the dust emission mechanisms  and the associated surface wind speed in these large-scale models. This is particularly true in the presence of surface roughnesses such as vegetation in semiarid regions. This thesis aims at improving the understanding of dust emission in semi-arid environments, characterized by heterogeneous surfaces with sparse seasonal vegetation. To this end, a combination of numerical and field experiments was employed, with investigations progressing from a bare erodible soil to surfaces with sparse vegetation.
A review of the existing dust emission schemes showed ambiguities in the parametrization of the processes influencing the emitted dust. A sensitivity analysis, using a 1D dust dispersal model, demonstrated (i) the importance of surface dust PSD and inter-particle cohesive bond parametrization on the emitted dust PSD, and (ii) the importance of the deposition process on the net dust flux PSD. Based on this analysis, a new emission scheme was incorporated into a 3D erosion model, coupled with a Large Eddy Simulation (LES) airflow model, and evaluated first on a bare surface against the WIND-O-V’s 2017 field experiment in Tunisia. The model was able to reproduce the near-surface turbulent transport dissimilarity between dust and momentum observed during the experiment. This means that momentum and dust are not always transported by the same turbulent eddies. The model demonstrated that the main cause of this dissimilarity is the dust emission intermittency, which varies as a function of wind intensity and fetch.
The role of sparse vegetation on the net emitted dust flux was then explored using the WIND-O-V’s 2018 experiment, conducted at the same site as the 2017 experiment. The resulting field measurements were used to evaluate the 3D erosion model, including vegetation characteristics. A comparison between the 2017 and 2018 experiments confirmed that sparse vegetation reduces dust emission by increasing the erosion threshold friction velocity, which depends on vegetation characteristics and wind direction relative to the vegetation arrangement. During the 2018 experiment, the net emitted dust flux PSD varied continuously, unlike the 2017 experiment, with a progressive impoverishment in coarse particles (1.50 μm). This impoverishment was found independent of the vegetation, and resulted from the depletion of coarse particles at the surface due to longer emission periods in 2018 without surface tillage or precipitation. This non-influence of vegetation on the dust flux PSD was validated by the similarity of the dust flux PSD at the beginning of the 2018 experiment, when the vegetation was at its maximum height, with the one of the 2017 experiment without vegetation. It was further confirmed by the simulations that demonstrated (i) negligible re-deposition of coarse particles on to vegetation during emission events, and (ii) negligible effect of the turbulence induced by the vegetation on the PSD of the net emitted dust flux.
Our 3D erosion model appears as a promising tool for characterizing dust emissions over heterogeneous surfaces typical of semi-arid regions and for deriving dust emission schemes for climate models as a function of surface roughness properties.

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