The Kuiseb River is one of the major ephemeral rivers of Western Namibia, setting the northern limit of the Namib Sand Sea and outflowing in the Atlantic Ocean at Walvis Bay. Such ephemeral rivers are of the highest importance for the country since they are related both to recent past climatic conditions and to potential water resources. Using high-resolution radar images from the Japanese ALOS-2 satellite, we mapped for the first time the numerous channels hidden under the surface aeolian sediments: while the non-permanent tributaries of the Kuiseb River appear north of its present-day bed, a wide paleochannel system running westward, assumed by previous studies, could be clearly observed in the interdune valleys in the south. Radar-detected channels were studied during fieldwork in May 2019, which produced both subsurface ground-penetrating radar profiles and high-resolution drone-generated digital elevation models. It allowed us to confirm the existence of the “Paleo–Kuiseb” drainage system, a remnant of the Holocene history of the Kuiseb River, moving northward under the progression of the Namib Sand Sea. Our observations also contribute to the explanation of the young age of the linear dunes at the northern edge of the Namib Sand Sea, which are currently active and are pushing the Kuiseb River course toward the north.
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