How old is the biggest sand dune on Earth?

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Scientists have uncovered the age of the Earth’s largest sand dune.

This remarkable dune, named Lala Lallia, is nestled in Morocco and has been a subject of curiosity among experts. Through their diligent research, they have traced its origins back to the Upper Palaeolithic period, approximately 13,000 years ago.

Lala Lallia isn’t just any ordinary dune. It stands tall at 100 meters, roughly equal to the height of London’s famous Big Ben, and spans 700 meters wide, which is about the length of seven football fields put together. This type of dune is called a “star dune” due to its unique shape that resembles a star, with multiple arms branching out. These dunes are not just found on Earth; they also exist on the planet Mars, showcasing the diverse landscapes of our universe.

The formation of star dunes is a natural marvel. They are created in areas where wind directions shift throughout the year, molding the dunes into their star-like shape. Interestingly, research indicates that Lala Lallia had a period of dormancy lasting about 8,000 years after its initial formation but then experienced a rapid growth spurt in recent millennia.

Understanding the age and growth patterns of dunes like Lala Lallia is crucial for scientists. It helps them gain insights into the Earth’s climate and environmental changes that occurred thousands of years ago. However, studying these gigantic dunes poses significant challenges.

According to Professor Duller from the University of Aberystwyth and Professor Charles Bristow at Birkbeck University, the sheer size of star dunes has made it difficult for experts to realize they were examining a single dune structure.

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