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Wind Abrasion

Mechanical or Physical Weathering Gallery

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Wind can wear away rocks in a process like sandblasting where conditions are right. The results are called ventifacts. (more below)
Sandblasted pebbles

Ventifacts from the Gobi Desert.

Photo (c) 2012 Andrew Alden, licensed to About.com (fair use policy)

Only a very windy, very gritty place meets the conditions needed for wind abrasion. Antarctica and other periglacial regions are one such environment; sandy deserts are another. These ventifacts are from the Gobi Desert; I purchased them at a rock show.

High winds can lift particles as large as a millimeter or so—sand—bouncing them along the ground in the process called saltation. A few thousand grains might hit pebbles like these over the course of a single sandstorm. After a thousand sandstorms those hits add up. Signs of wind abrasion include a fine polish, fluting (grooves and striations), and flattened faces that may intersect in sharp but not jagged edges. Where winds come persistently from two different directions, wind abrasion can carve several faces into stones. Wind abrasion can carve softer rocks into hoodoo rocks and, at the largest scale, landforms called yardangs.

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