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Erosion caused

by water
Moving water is the major
cause of erosion. Rain carries
away bits of soil and slowly
washes away rock fragments.
Although water may not
seem powerful at first, it is
one of the most powerful
forces on the planet. Rushing
streams and rivers wear away their banks, creating larger and larger valleys.

Here are some of the ways that water causes erosion:
Rainfall - Rainfall can cause erosion both when the rain hits the surface of
the Earth, called splash erosion, and when raindrops accumulate and flow
like small streams.
Rivers - Rivers can create a significant amount of erosion over time. They
break up particles along the river bottom and carry them downstream. One
example of river erosion is the Grand Canyon which was formed by the
Colorado River.
Waves - Ocean waves can
cause the coastline to erode. The
shear energy and force of the waves
causes pieces of rock and coastline
to break off changing the coastline
over time.
Floods - Large floods can
cause erosion to happen very
quickly acting like powerful rivers.
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Coastal Erosion
Erosion by water changes the shape of coastlines. Waves constantly crash against
shores. They pound rocks into pebbles and reduce pebbles to sand. Water
sometimes takes sand away from beaches. This moves the coastline farther inland.

The battering of ocean waves also erodes seaside cliffs. It sometimes bores holes
that form caves. When water breaks through the back of the cave, it creates an
arch. The continual pounding of the waves can cause the top of the arch to fall,
leaving nothing but rock columns. These are called sea stacks. All of these features
make rocky beaches beautiful, but also dangerous.
Sand dunes and vegetation help to hold the sand in place when wind or water tries
to erode it away. The vegetation prevents erosion because the sand gets trapped in
the leaves or the roots of the plant. Sometimes, fences are built around dunes to
also try to trap the sand.

Beaches become more eroded in the
winter because of storms. During the
summer, more sand is usually
deposited on the beach, building the
beach back up to its normal state.

The environment can be affected by
erosion in several ways. First and the
most obvious, houses that are built along the shore are at risk of being washed
away if more sand is being removed from the beach in the winter, and not enough
sand is returned in the summer. Secondly, animals that live on the beach are at risk
for losing their homes. The amount of sand on the beach, and how it is deposited
can also affect the shape of the shoreline, which can have an effect on the type of
waves that are produced at the beach. The type of waves produced at the beach will
also ultimately have an effect on beach erosion.
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Erosion caused by wind
Wind is a major type of erosion, especially in dry areas. It carries dust, sand, and
volcanic ash from one place to another. Wind can sometimes blow sand into
towering dunes. Some sand dunes in the Badain Jaran area of the Gobi Desert in
China reach more than 400 meters high.

In dry areas, windblown sand blasts against rock, slowly wearing away the soft
rock. It also polishes rocks and cliffs until they are smooth.
When there is not enough rain or the weather becomes too hot and dry, wind lifts
up the tiny particles of dry soil and blows them into the air as clouds of dust. The
top layer of soil removed by wind is called topsoil. Topsoil is important to farmers
and crops because it contains plant food called organic matter, and it holds more
water than the soil underneath it. When wind erosion removes topsoil, it blows
away the food that plants need to grow and be healthy. Subsoil, which is
underneath topsoil, does not have the water and nutrients that plants need to
You see signs of wind erosion
wherever you find dry soil where
nothing grows, or if you see the
roots of plants showing. Some
plants grow in places where wind
erosion has blown away the top
layer of the soil, but they are very
small because they do not get
enough food. When you see clouds
of dust, you know wind erosion has
blown away some topsoil from the
Many plants all around the world cannot grow because of wind erosion.
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Erosion caused by ice
Ice can erode the land. In frigid areas and on some mountaintops, glaciers move
slowly downhill and across the land. As they move, they pick up everything in
their path, from tiny grains of sand to huge boulders.

The rocks carried by a glacier rub against the ground below, eroding both the
ground and the rocks. Glaciers grind up rocks and scrape away the soil. Moving
glaciers gouge out basins and form steep-sided mountain valleys.

Several times in Earth's history, vast glaciers covered parts of the Northern
Hemisphere. These glacial periods are known as ice ages. Glaciers carved much of
the northern North American and European landscape. They scoured the ground to
form the bottom of what are now the Finger Lakes in the U.S. state of New York.
They also carved fjords, deep inlets along the coast of Scandinavia.

Today, in places such as Greenland and Antarctica, glaciers continue to erode the
earth. These ice sheets, sometimes more than a mile thick, carry rocks and other
debris downhill toward the sea. Eroded sediment is often visible on and around
glaciers. This material is called moraine.

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