What Are Two Ways Wind Causes Erosion?

The landcape of Arizona exhibits the signs of wind erosion.
••• Ryan McVay/Photodisc/Getty Images

The phrase "wind erosion" describes the way air movement breaks down stones, rocks and other formations of solid matter on the Earth's surface. Wind erosion uses two main mechanics: abrasion and deflation. Deflation is further broken down into three categories: surface creep, saltation and suspension.

Wind Abrasion

The wind carries tiny particles along with it when it blows. When the wind blows against solid objects, those particles strike the objects. Over time, the cumulative effect of this abrasion can wear down rock, just like a sandblaster, but slower. The process of abrasion produces the interesting rock formations in dry areas such as Arizona, where abrasion wears away parts of rocks and can grind down even the largest stones.

Deflation: Surface Creep

Wind deflation is the movement of objects by the wind. During surface creep, the wind pushes rocks that are too heavy to lift along the surface of the Earth. The grain particles that undergo surface creep are generally between 0.5 to 2 millimeters in diameter. Surface creep is considered the least common form of deflation, accounting for around a quarter of all grain movement due to wind deflation.

Deflation: Saltation

When particles are 0.1 to 0.5 millimeters in diameter, they can experience saltation. Where surface creep is a pushing motion, saltation is skipping or bouncing. Saltation lifts particles and carries them for short distances. The distances particles travel and the height they reach depends on the wind strength and the weight of the particle. At least half of grain movement is considered to be saltation. Particles that undergo saltation may be worn down and become suspended.

Deflation: Suspension

The smallest particles, those under 0.1 of a millimeter in diameter, are suspended in the wind. This means the wind carries them for long distances and to great heights. The suspended particles may be visible as dust or haze. When the wind dies down, or when it begins to rain, the particles return to the ground and become part of the topsoil. Suspension is responsible for a large amount of grain movement -- between 30 percent and 40 percent.

Related Articles

Ace Your Middle School Science Fair with These Science...
What Is the Difference Between Deflation & Saltation?
The Difference Between Weathering & Erosion
What Are Meteors Made Up Of?
What Is Shearing in Geology?
The Difference Between Metaconglomerate & Conglomerate
Deposition Facts for Kids
What Is Biological Weathering?
What Are the Agents of Weathering?
What Are the Three Most Common Cementing Agents for...
How Does Plate Tectonics Affect the Rock Cycle?
Physical & Chemical Weathering
What Forces Cause Weathering & Erosion?
What Factors Cause Mechanical Weathering?
What Are the Four Causes of Mechanical Weathering?
Types of Mechanical Weathering
How Does Weathering Happen?
What Happens During the Process of Deposition in Science?
How to Calculate Wind Load on a Large Flat Surface
At What Speed Does Wind Become a Hurricane?
What Happens to Air Resistance As Objects Move Faster?