Cat Dune – Hanging Dune

A “hanging dune” is a specific type of sand dune that forms on the leeward side of a hill or mountain, typically above the general level of the surrounding terrain. These dunes are essentially perched above other landforms, often appearing as though they are hanging on the slopes.

Here’s how they develop and some characteristics:


Hanging dunes primarily form in areas with significant wind activity where the topography causes the wind to deposit sand on steep slopes rather than just along flat surfaces. This process involves:

  • Wind Patterns: Strong, consistent winds carry sand from lower areas.
  • Obstacle Impact: When these winds encounter steep slopes or cliffs, their upward deflection causes a reduction in wind speed, dropping the sand and forming a dune.
  • Accumulation: Over time, more sand accumulates, stabilizing despite the steep slopes due to vegetation or moisture, further building the dune.


  • Location: They are typically found on the sides of hills, cliffs, or within mountain ranges where wind patterns are disrupted by the topography.
  • Stability: These dunes can be quite stable if vegetation anchors the sand, or they can be transient and shift with changes in wind patterns.
  • Ecological Impact: Hanging dunes can create unique microenvironments that support specialized plants and animals adapted to these specific conditions.

Geologic and Ecological Significance

  • Indicator of Wind History: The presence and orientation of hanging dunes can provide clues about historical wind directions and strengths.
  • Biodiversity: These dunes can host unique species that have adapted to the niche environments created by the unusual moisture and temperature conditions on the slopes.
  • Conservation: Due to their unique nature and the specialized ecosystems they support, hanging dunes can be important areas for ecological studies and conservation efforts.

Hanging dunes are less common than other dune types and require a unique set of environmental conditions to form and persist, making them particularly interesting for geologists and ecologists studying aeolian (wind-driven) processes and desert ecosystems.