EGU General Assembly 2022
© Author(s) 2022. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Remotely sensed dune movement rates in desert margins of Central Asia over five decades using satellite imagery

Lukas Dörwald, Janek Walk, Frank Lehmkuhl, and Georg Stauch
Lukas Dörwald et al.
  • RWTH, Physical Geography and Geoecology, Aachen, Germany (

Remote sensing is being used widely to detect, map, and monitor environmental changes and remains a rapidly developing field. The detection of dune movement rates is carried out in field since the 20th century and through remote sensing, once the technical requirements were met in the 1970th (Hugenholtz et al. 2011). A wide variety of imagery from the last four decades is freely available in the archives of Sentinel-2 and Landsat 5 to 8 satellite images with spatial resolutions ranging between 10 and 25 meters. Complementing these data sources, in this study, we additionally used CORONA KH-4B images from the 1960s and 1970s. Despite its age, the KH-4B satellite delivered a considerably high spatial resolution of up to 1.8 m, thus bridging a considerable time gap of high resolution imagery and enabling the detection and mapping of singular dunes and dune fields. These satellites were originally used to record military intelligence images before being declassified for scientific use in 1995. After georeferencing, these images were utilized to detect and quantify the rates and directions of sand dune movement as well as for the estimation of dune height through a simple trigonometric approach.

We focus on single dunes and their movement rates in the high-altitude intramontane Gonghe Basin in Central Asia. The location of the study area at the north-eastern edge of the Asian summer monsoon and the mid-latitude Westerlies makes it especially sensitive to climatic variability (Vimpere et al. 2020). The dominant south easterly dune migration directions are in good agreement with the prevailing wind patterns. Dune heights of ~8–28 meters and ~3-31 meters for the late 1960s and 2020s, respectively, were calculated. Also, movement rates of under one meter up to ~24 meters per year were assessed for the time range of the late 1960s and 2020s.References:

Hugenholtz, C., H., Levin, N., Barchyn, T.E., Baddock, M., C. (2012): Remote sensing and spatial analysis of Aeolian sand dunes: A review and outlook. Earth-Science Reviews 111, 319334,

Vimpere, L., Watkins, S., E., Castelltort, S. (2021): Continental interior parabolic dunes as a potential proxy for past climates. Global and Planetary Change, 206: 103622,

How to cite: Dörwald, L., Walk, J., Lehmkuhl, F., and Stauch, G.: Remotely sensed dune movement rates in desert margins of Central Asia over five decades using satellite imagery, EGU General Assembly 2022, Vienna, Austria, 23–27 May 2022, EGU22-4460,, 2022.


Display file