Wind transportation methods. Image credit

Wind transportation methods. Image credit

ZIMSEC O Level Geography Notes: Wind Action in Deserts: Wind Transport

  • Wind is able to transport (move) sand and dust particles depending on its speed and flow.
  • The effectiveness of wind erosion and transport depend on a number of factors:
  • Aeolian movement is greatest where the winds are strong (20km/hr or more), turbulent, come from a constant direction and blows steadily for a length of time.
  • The effectiveness and nature of wind transport also depends on the nature of the regolith ( weathered material).
  • It is also more effective in areas where there is less vegetation cover which tend to act as wind breaks by absorbing some of the wind’s energy.
  • It also depends on the material being transported for example if the material is dry and unconsolidated it can better be transported.
  • Optimum wind erosion and transportation occurs in semi-arid parts of deserts.

Wind transport

  • Wind moves material by three processes:
  • Suspension, saltation and surface creep.
  • It is important to note that each of these methods of transportation do not happen in isolation but, often all three take place simultaneous at any given time.


  • Happens when materials are very fine i.e. less than 0.15 mm in diameter.
  • This means that they can be easily picked up by the wind,
  • They are then raised to considerable height and carried, in the air, for great distances.
  • Sand particles have been on occasion carried from the Sahara desert and deposited in Britain a great distance away.
  • Suspension creates dust storms that often reduce visibility in deserts to less than a kilometer.


  • When wind speeds exceed the threshhold velocity (that is the speed required to move grain particles),
  • fine and coarse-grained sand particles are lifted and rise almost vertically for several centimeters before falling again to the ground.
  • When they return to the ground they follow a flat trajectory that sees them fall a short distance from where they were picked up but not in the same place.
  • The particles are moved by the wind in a leap-frogging and bouncing manner.
  • Even in the most severe storms the particles are rarely lifted to more than 2 meters in height thus differentiating this method of wind transportation from suspension.

Surface creep

  • As particles are transported by saltation and suspension they may dislodge and push forward larger particles (i.e. those that are more than 0.25 mm in diameter).
  • These are too heavy to be lifted from the ground by the wind’s energy.
  • However due to continued bombardment by the smaller particles being transport by the other modes of transport they roll and gradually move over the surface of the desert.


  • Due to the occurrence of obstacles and impediments suchs as vegetation, rocks, dead animal carcases and settlements
  • Materials transported by wind are eventually deposited.
  • Deposition can also occur due to a reduction in wind energy.
  • Wind deposition forms landforms such as barchan and seif dunes.

To access more topics go to the Geography Notes page.

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