Desert Research Institute

Dr Nick Lancaster is Research Professor Emeritus of the Desert Research Institute (DRI) in Nevada, USA, where his specialisms are desert geomorphology and the impacts of climate change on desert regions, as well as being one of the foremost experts on sand dunes. He is a fellow of the Royal Geographical Society and the Geological Society of America. The DRI is a world leader in basic and applied interdisciplinary research. Since 1959, DRI’s research has advanced scientific knowledge, supported Nevada’s diversifying economy, provided science-based educational opportunities, and informed policy makers, business leaders and community members.

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Tallest free-standing sand dunes

The free-standing megadunes in the Badain Jaran Desert in the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region of northern China have an average height of 330 metres (1,082 feet), but have measured as much as 460–480 metres (1,509–1,574 feet) high – which is taller than New York's Empire State Building. Scientists suggest that geology of the bedrock below the dunes as well as high water content in the sand which means that grains "stick" together are two of the factors that explain their extreme height.