The National Soil Erosion Research Laboratory
Wind erosion is a serious environmental problem attracting the attention of many across the globe. It is a common phenomenon occurring mostly in flat, bare areas; dry, sandy soils; or anywhere the soil is loose, dry, and finely granulated. Wind erosion damages land and natural vegetation by removing soil from one place and depositing it in another. It causes soil loss, dryness and deterioration of soil structure, nutrient and productivity losses and air pollution. Suspended dust and dirt is inevitably deposited over everything. It blows on and inside homes, covers roads and highways, and smothers crops. Sediment transport and deposition are significant factors in the geological changes which occur on the land around us and over long periods of time are important in the soil formation process.
Soil movement is initiated as a result of wind forces exerted against the surface of the ground. For each specific soil type and surface condition there is a minimum velocity required to move soil particles. This is called the threshold velocity. Once this velocity is reached, the quantity of soil moved is dependent upon the particle size, the cloddiness of particles, and wind velocity itself.
Suspension, saltation, and surface creep are the three types of soil movement which occur during wind erosion. While soil can be blown away at virtually any height, the majority (over 93%) of soil movement takes place at or below one meter.
Suspension occurs when very fine dirt and dust particles are lifted into the wind. They can be thrown into the air through impact with other particles or by the wind itself. Once in the atmosphere, these particles can be carried very high and be transported over extremely long distances. Soil moved by suspension is the most spectacular and easiest to recognize of the three forms of movement.
Saltation - The major fraction of soil moved by the wind is through the process of saltation. In saltation, fine soil particles are lifted into the air by the wind and drift horizontally across the surface increasing in velocity as they go. Soil particles moved in this process of saltation can cause severe damage to the soil surface and vegetation. They travel approximately four times longer in distance than in height. When they strike the surface again they either rebound back into the air or knock other particles into the air.
Creep - The large particles which are too heavy to be lifted into the air are moved through a process called surface creep. In this process, the particles are rolled across the surface after coming into contact with the soil particles in saltation.
Surface texture is the best key to wind erosion protection. Properly managed crop residues, carefully timed soil tillage, and accurately placed crop strips and crop barriers can all effectively reduce wind erosion.
Additional wind erosion protection
Wind Erosion Prediction System (WEPS)