INQUA Dunes Atlas

A Chronological Database of Quaternary Dune Fields and Sand Seas

Nicholas Lancaster, Emeritus Research Professor
Division of Earth and Ecosystem Sciences, Desert Research Institute

As significant sedimentary deposits and landforms, sand seas and dune fields provide an archive of the effects of climate and sea level change on a variety of temporal and spatial scales. Dune systems provide a valuable source of information on past climate conditions, including evidence for periods of aridity and unique data on past wind regimes.

The INQUA Dunes Atlas project has developed a global digital database of chronologic information for periods of inland sand dune accumulation and stabilization.  In addition to luminescence and radiocarbon age data, the database includes information on the site location (including coordinates), dune type, and stratigraphic context, pertinent analytical information (e.g. luminescence procedures), and literature citations to the original data source.

Project members comprise regional correspondants who are familiar with the information for their area and are responsible for compiling data on chronology and stratigraphy from published sources. These data are then added to the database by the project leader.

The project is a contribution to INQUA TERPRO (Commission on Terrestrial Processes, Deposits and History).


Project Objectives

  • Document the history of aeolian processes in arid regions with emphasis on dune systems in low and mid latitude deserts
  • Correlate periods of sand accumulation and stability with other terrestrial and marine paleoclimatic proxies and records
  • Develop improved understanding of the response of dune systems to climate change

Access to the INQUA Dunes Atlas Paper: 

This paper discusses the background to the project, the concept and structure of the chronologic database that forms its core, and gives some examples of the scope of the database and ways in which it can contribute to greater understanding of the spatial and temporal variability in dune development.