In Google Earth we can see some very clear lines in the Sahara. In the screenshot below you can clearly see these lines starting at the top going southward, then gently curving westward towards the bottom.

What are these structures and how were they formed? Are they related to the wind? Some sort of flow? Are they surface structures or they are embedded deep in the rock? Or something else?

I realize that this may be a trivial question for anyone with some knowledge of geology, but I really wasn't able to google up the answer.

enter image description here


1 Answer 1


These features are created by the wind.You will note that the upper left portion has a small dark spot. This is known as Waw al-Namus, or the "Oasis of Mosquitoes." It has a path of material in the same curved manner as the surrounding features you mention.

From the link provided below:

However, Waw al-Namus and its plume are not the only "wind records" in the area. As you utilise higher resolution images - of the order of 1 km or better, other, somewhat different "long-term wind tracers" are revealed at almost every place across the Sahara Desert. These generally take the form of small-scale, long, parallel thin lines, as if being drawn across the desert by a giant pencil. One of the most spectacular places with long-term wind streamlines imprinted into the landscape can be found further southeast of Waw al-Namus, to the southeast of the Tibesti Mountains.


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    $\begingroup$ Please explain the content of the link you provide in your answer $\endgroup$
    – arkaia
    Jul 9, 2016 at 17:39
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    $\begingroup$ Welcome to Earth Science stack exchange. Can you edit your post to include relevant information from that link or a summary of what it contains? We'd like our answers to stand the test of time and be just as useful if that url ever turns into a 404. $\endgroup$
    – casey
    Jul 10, 2016 at 1:12
  • $\begingroup$ Edited as per requests. $\endgroup$ Jul 10, 2016 at 14:36
  • $\begingroup$ Now that this is not a link-only answer, +1. $\endgroup$ Jul 10, 2016 at 15:27
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    $\begingroup$ Thanks! There seems to be correlation with the wind patterns on earth.nullschool.net (though those are based on live data and I do not know how dynamic these patterns are). $\endgroup$
    – Desert
    Jul 13, 2016 at 21:32

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