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A barchan.

Alternative formsEdit


From Russian барха́н (barxán), from Kazakh бархан (barxan).


  • IPA(key): /bɑː(ɹ)ˈkɑːn/, /bɑː(ɹ)ˈxɑːn/


barchan (plural barchans)

  1. An arc-shaped sand ridge comprising well-sorted sand.
    • 1966, Edwin Sherbon Hills, Arid Lands: A Geographical Appraisal[1], page 72:
      The sand is usually very well sorted in barchans, for it is constantly re-worked as the dune ‘marches’. The marching also causes cross-bedding inside the barchan, with a dip parallel to the sand-fall face.
    • 1988, Robert Irwin, The Mysteries of Algiers, Dedalus 1993, p. 69:
      But to follow the dunes around the foot of their slopes is also tedious and one can walk for half a kilometre east or west, finding one barchan linked to another and no easy way through […].
    • 2008, Julie Laity, Deserts and Desert Environments[2], page 205:
      Barchans and transverse dunes are essentially of the same type, forming and migrating under a unidirectional wind regime. The difference between the two is related to the amount of sand: barchans are isolated mounds, whereas transverse dunes are composed of many barchans coalesced into a single, longer dune form (Tsoar 2001).
    • 2010, Robert S. Anderson, Suzanne P. Anderson, Geomorphology: The Mechanics and Chemistry of Landscapes, page 482,
      Perhaps the most distinctive is the barchan dune, an isolated crescentic form with arms that stretch downwind. Barchans are not huge, often with heights of only a few meters.