Examples of Wind Erosion: Causes and Effects

, Staff Writer
Updated July 16, 2021
The Wave sandstone in Arizona example of Wind Erosion
    The Wave sandstone in Arizona example of Wind Erosion
    Clinton Harris / iStock / Getty Images
    Used under Getty Images license

If you've ever seen a sand dune, it can be a magical experience. However, did you realize that sand dunes were caused by wind erosion? Quite a few fantastic natural features have been caused by wind erosion. Get a clear idea of what the causes of wind erosion are and some interesting examples.

What Is Wind Erosion?

When the wind moves the soil from one area to another, this is called wind erosion. However, the term wind erosion actually refers to the damage of land due to wind removing soil from an area. Most often, wind erosion occurs on flat land in dry or sandy areas like the desert.

Wind Erosion Examples

You can find various examples of wind erosion all over the world. Check out a few of the interesting ones.

  • yardangs - rock formations in various locations sculpted by wind erosion
  • dunes - large mounds of sand, particularly in deserts, off of which sand is blown
  • rock and sand structures - created via wind blowing off rock and sand around them
  • desert pavement - created by wind moving dirt to leave large sediment collections
  • ventifact - rock that has been etched and shaped by wind erosion
  • loess - hills created of loosely packed yellow sediment in China and the Midwest
  • mushroom rock - wind erosion works to create a rock pedestal
  • The Wave - wave formation made in sandstone rock in Arizona
  • Sleeping Bear Dunes - unique sand dunes found on the lakeshore of Michigan
  • Zion National Park - large sandstone formations that show crossbedding caused by changes in winds

Processes of Wind Erosion

Wind erosion typically happens by three different processes. These are called suspension, saltation and creep.

  • Suspension occurs when the wind takes fine particles of dirt and dust into the area and moves those particles over long distances.
  • Saltation is the primary means of soil movement. In this process, soil particles move across a surface and damage vegetation and soil surface.
  • Creep occurs when soil particles roll over an area and meet particles that have been through saltation.

How Does Wind Cause Erosion?

The wind causes erosion by moving the dirt around. Therefore, wind erosion can happen anywhere and any time the wind blows. Wind erosion typically occurs in any area where the soil or sand is not compacted or is of a finely granulated nature.

Not only does wind erosion damage the land by drying out the soil and reducing the nutrients of the land, but it can also cause air pollution. Enveloping crops, covering highways, and invading homes, the sand, dust and dirt created from wind erosion can impact plant and human life in numerous ways.


How Wind Erosion Affects an Area

When these particles move along the ground, they create two different effects. These effects are called deflation or abrasion.

  • Deflation is the process by which wind moves particles that are loose from one area to another.
  • Abrasion is when an area is eroded directly by airborne particles blowing in the wind.

When the wind moves loose soil and dirt particles, this would be an example of deflation. When airborne particles cause landmass to wear away or erode, on the other hand, this is an example of abrasion.

The Effects of Wind Erosion

It's important to pay attention to wind erosion because it can cause devastation to an area. For example, it can cause:

  • ancient cities to be buried by the wind movement from one area to another
  • infertile soil to not be able to provide nutrients to grow food and plants
  • degradation of crops resulting in food loss and economic loss to farmers

Minimizing Wind Erosion

While wind erosion will happen, there are a few things you can do to help keep it at bay. These include:

  • Increasing the cohesion of the soil - Using organic matter sprayed on top of the soil or increasing irrigation can help the soil to remain moist and stick together.
  • Increasing the surface of the soil's roughness - Wind erosion can be reduced by creating ridges of appropriate size (less than 40 centimeters high).
  • Increasing vegetation - By planting on the land, the ability of the wind to remove soil is greatly reduced.
  • Creating wind-breaks - By arranging the planting of trees around an area, you can reduce the amount of wind reaching the soil and provide shade so trees retain moisture.

Understanding Erosion

Now you have seen lots of different examples of wind erosion, and you can better recognize this phenomenon when it occurs. Since you have a clear grasp of wind erosion, you can check out what ice erosion looks like.