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Sandip Patil
LA 9106
Geology Seminar
Guide: Prof. Madhukara
Geology & Geomorphology Wind Action & Desert Landscapes 1

Wind Action
Circulation of air over the earth surface is due to the differential heating between the equatorial & Polar
Regions, and the fact that hot air being lighter rises above the cold air. Hence air heated at the equator
would rise & reach the Polar Regions, where the chilled air would descend to the equatorial regions.
The simple process of rising of hot air & descending of cool air over the earth’s surface is made
complex by the rotation of the earth. Rotation creates a deflecting force on the winds, known as Coriolis

Global wind systems

The Coriolis force creates a complex global wind
circulation pattern. Prevailing winds are winds which
Coriolis force
come about as a consequence of global circulation Any matter moving freely over the
patterns. These include the Trade Winds, the earth’s surface from equator to the
Westerlies, the Polar Easterlies, and the jet streams. poles, would pass through areas having
varying rotational speeds. At the
The global wind circulation system is divided into three equator, the rotational speed is
cells, cell A between the equator and 30° latitude, cell B maximum (1600km/hr) and stationary
between 30° and 60° latitude, and cell C between 60° at the poles. Hence the matter would
and the pole. tend to travel eastwards faster than the
earth’s surface. Similarly the movement
Due to heating, air at the equator rises up into the from poles to the equator would be
atmosphere, and leaving behind a low pressure area. deflected westwards. Thus there is a
Coriolis force deflects these winds to the east. When it deflection towards the right in the
reaches the 30° latitude, crowding of air due to reduction Northern Hemisphere & to the left in the
in surface area of earth is sufficient to create a high southern Hemisphere.
pressure zone, and push the air downwards. These are

Sandip Patil Department of Landscape Architecture, CEPT University LA - 9106

Geology & Geomorphology Wind Action & Desert Landscapes 2

known as horse latitudes. The descending air divides into Trade winds blowing towards the equator and
completing the convection in cell A, deflected westwards, and the disorderly westerlies that spiral
towards the poles in cell B, and are responsible for cyclones due to their sinuous courses. Surface
winds are already blowing from the poles downwards in cell C due to cooling of air. These meet the
westerlies at 60° latitude, forming a disturbed and variable zone known as Polar front. The colder polar
air tends to form a wedge, becoming cloudy and a source of rain or snow, accompanied by strong
winds. The polar front advances to lower latitudes in winter, and recedes to higher ones in summer, its
range being wider over the oceans.

Seasonal winds only

exist during specific

Synoptic winds are

associated with large-
scale events such as
warm and cold fronts.
They include the
geostrophic wind, the
gradient wind, and the
cyclostrophic wind.
Synoptic winds occupy
the lower boundary of
"forecastable" winds.

As a result of the Coriolis

force, winds in the
northern hemisphere
always flow clockwise
around a high pressure
area and
counterclockwise around
a low pressure area (the
reverse occurs in the
southern hemisphere). At
the same time, winds
always flow from areas of
high pressure to areas of low pressure. These two forces are opposite but not equal, and the path that
results when the two forces cancel each other runs parallel to the isobars. Wind following this path is
known as geostrophic wind. Winds are said to be truly geostrophic only when other forces (e.g. friction)
acting on the air are negligible, a situation which is often a good approximation to the large-scale flow
away from the tropics. In certain circumstances, the Coriolis force acting on moving air may be almost
or entirely overwhelmed by the centripetal force. Such a wind is said to be cyclostrophic, and is
characterized by rapid rotation over a relatively small area. Hurricanes, tornadoes, and typhoons are
examples of this type of wind.

Mesoscale winds
Winds at the next lowest level of magnitude typically arise and fade over time periods too short and
over geographic regions too narrow to predict with any long-range accuracy. They include such
phenomena as the cold wind outflow from thunderstorms. This wind frequently advances ahead of more
intense thunderstorms and may be sufficiently energetic to generate local weather of its own.

Microscale winds
Microscale winds take place over very short durations of time - seconds to minutes - and spatially over
only tens to hundreds of metres. The turbulence following the passage of an active front is composed of
microscale winds, and it is microscale wind which produces convective events such as dust devils.
Though small in scope, microscale winds can play a major role in human affairs.

Sandip Patil Department of Landscape Architecture, CEPT University LA - 9106

Geology & Geomorphology Wind Action & Desert Landscapes 3

Winds by effect
In classical terminology, Aeolian winds, or winds producing Aeolian action, are winds which produce
geologic changes. Modern tornadoes and hurricanes might at times be considered to produce such
changes. Large scale erosion, dune formation, and other geologic and topographic effects influenced by
wind are still referred to as Aeolian activity.

Local winds
Differential heating is the motive force behind land breezes and sea breezes, also known as on- or off-
shore winds. Land is a rapid absorber/radiator of heat, whereas water absorbs and releases heat more
slowly. Hence, in locations where sea and land meet, heat absorbed over the day will be radiated more
quickly by the land at night, cooling the air. Over the sea, heat is still being released into the air at night,
making it rise. This convective motion draws the cool land air in to replace the rising air, resulting in a
land breeze in the late night and early morning. During the day warm air over the land rises, pulling cool
air in from the sea to replace it, giving a sea breeze during the afternoon and evening.

Mountain and valley breezes are due to a combination of differential heating and geometry. When the
sun rises, the tops of the mountain peaks receive first light, while through the day, the mountain slopes
take on a greater heat load than the valleys. This results in a temperature inequity between the two, and
as warm air rises off the slopes, cool air moves up out of the valleys to replace it. This upslope wind is
called a valley breeze. The opposite effect takes place in the afternoon, as the valley radiates heat. The
peaks, long since cooled, transport air into the valley in a process that is partly gravitational and partly
convective and is called a mountain breeze. Mountain breezes are one example of what is known more
generally as a katabatic wind. These are winds driven by cold air flowing down a slope, and occur on
the largest scale in Greenland and Antarctica.

Because katabatic refers specifically to the vertical motion of the wind, this group also includes winds
which form on the lee side of mountains, and heat as a consequence of compression. Such winds may
undergo a temperature increase of 20 °C or more. Among the most well-known of these winds are the
chinook of Western Canada and the American Northwest, the Swiss föhn, California's infamous Santa
Ana wind, and the French Mistral. The opposite of a katabatic wind is an anabatic wind, described
above as valley wind.

Orographic wind refers to air which undergoes orographic lifting due to barriers like mountain ranges,
and descends on the leeward sides. A notable result is high rainfall on windward slopes, and desert like
landscape on the leeward side.

Sandip Patil Department of Landscape Architecture, CEPT University LA - 9106

Geology & Geomorphology Wind Action & Desert Landscapes 4

The Thar Desert near Jaisalmer, High desert in Eastern Oregon, The Agasthiyamalai hills,
India United States creates a rain shadow region
About one-fifth of Earth's land surface is desert. A desert
is a geological region that receives little precipitation. Evapotranspiration
Generally deserts are defined as areas that receive an Evapotranspiration is the combination of
average annual precipitation of less than 250 mm (10 water loss through atmospheric
inches). 'True deserts' where vegetation cover is evaporation, coupled with the
exceedingly sparse and rainfall is exceedingly rare and evaporative loss of water through the
infrequent, correspond to the 'hyper arid’ regions of the life processes of plants. Potential
earth. Deserts are a part of a wider classification of evapotranspiration, is the amount of
regions that, on an average annual basis, have a water that could evaporate in any given
moisture deficit (i.e. they can potentially lose more than region. The water budget of an area can
is received). These areas are collectively called 'dry be calculated using the formula:
lands' and extent over almost half of the earth's land “P-PE+/-S”, wherein P is precipitation,
surface. Because desert is a vague term, the use of 'dry PE is potential evapotranspiration rates
land', and its subdivisions of hyper arid, arid, semiarid and S is amount of surface storage of
and dry-sub humid, are to be preferred (as approved by water.
the United Nations). Deserts often have high biodiversity, Tucson, Arizona receives about 300 mm of
including animals that remain hidden during daylight rain per year, however about 2500 mm of
hours to control body temperature or to limit moisture water could evaporate over the course of a
needs. year, about 8 times more water than actually
falls. Rates of evapotranspiration in Alaska
Deserts usually have an extreme temperature range. are much lower, so while it receives minimal
Most deserts have a low temperature at night because precipitation, it is designated as specifically
the air is contains little moisture and therefore holds little different from the definition of a desert: a
heat. As soon as the sun sets, the desert cools quickly. place where evaporation exceeds
Cloudless skies increase the release of heat at night. precipitation.

The most widely accepted system of classification is based on the amount of precipitation an area
• Extremely arid lands: at least 12 consecutive months without rainfall (deserts)
• Arid lands: have less than 250 millimeters of annual rainfall (deserts)
• Semiarid lands: mean annual precipitation 250 - 500 millimeters (steppes)

However, a desert cannot be accurately described through lack of rainfall. For example, Phoenix,
Arizona receives less than 250 millimeters (10 inches) of precipitation per year, and is immediately
recognized as being located in a desert. The North Slope of Alaska's Brooks Range also receives less
than 250 millimeters of precipitation per year, but is not generally recognized as a desert region. The
difference lies in "potential evapotranspiration."

Geographical Classification of Deserts

Trade Wind Deserts: The trade winds in two belts on the equatorial sides of the Horse Latitudes heat
up as they move toward the Equator. These dry winds dissipate cloud cover, allowing more sunlight to
heat the land. Most of the major deserts of the world lie in areas crossed by the trade winds. The
world's largest desert, the Sahara of North Africa, which has experienced temperatures as high as 57°
C, is a trade wind desert.

Sandip Patil Department of Landscape Architecture, CEPT University LA - 9106

Geology & Geomorphology Wind Action & Desert Landscapes 5

Mid-Latitude Deserts: Midlatitude deserts occur between 30° and 50° latitudes, pole ward of the
subtropical high pressure zones. These deserts are in interior drainage basins far from oceans and
have a wide range of annual temperatures. The Sonoran Desert of southwestern North America is a
typical midlatitude desert.

Rain-shadow Deserts: Rain shadow deserts are formed because tall mountain ranges prevent
moisture-rich clouds from reaching areas on the lee, or protected side, of the range. Air masses lose
much of their moisture as they move over a mountain range. A desert is formed in the leeside "shadow"
of the range.

Coastal Deserts: Coastal deserts generally are found on the edges of continents near the
Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn. They are affected by cold ocean currents that parallel the coast.
Because local wind systems dominate the trade winds, these deserts are less stable than other deserts.
Winter fogs, produced by upwelling cold currents, frequently blanket coastal deserts and block solar
radiation. Coastal deserts are relatively complex because they are at the juncture of terrestrial, oceanic,
and atmospheric systems. A coastal desert, the Atacama of South America, is the Earth's driest desert.
In the Atacama, measurable rainfall--1 millimeter or more of rain--may occur as infrequently as once
every 5-20 years.

Monsoon Deserts: "Monsoon," derived from an Arabic word for "season," refers to a wind system
with pronounced seasonal reversal. Monsoons develop in response to temperature variations between
continents and oceans. The southeast trade winds of the Indian Ocean, for example, provide heavy
summer rains in India as they move onshore. As the monsoon crosses India, it loses moisture on the
eastern slopes of the Aravalli Range. The Rajasthan Desert of India and the Thar Desert of Pakistan
are parts of a monsoon desert region west of the range.

Polar Deserts: Polar deserts are areas with annual precipitation less than 250 millimeters and
a mean temperature during the warmest month of less than 10° C. Polar deserts on the Earth cover
nearly 5 million square kilometers and are mostly bedrock or gravel plains. Sand dunes are not
prominent features in these deserts, but snow dunes occur commonly in areas where precipitation is
locally more abundant. Temperature changes in polar deserts frequently cross the freezing point of
water. This "freeze-thaw" alternation forms patterned textures on the ground, as much as 5 meters in

Montane deserts: Montane deserts are arid places with a very high altitude; the most prominent
example is found north of the Himalaya, in parts of the Kunlun Mountains and the Tibetan Plateau.
Many locations within this category have elevations exceeding 3,000 meters. These places owe their
high aridity (the average annual precipitation is often less than 40mm) to being very far from the nearest
available sources of moisture.

Most desert plants are drought- or salt-tolerant,
such as xerophytes. Some store water in their
leaves, roots, and stems. Other desert plants have
long tap roots that penetrate to the water table if
present. The stems and leaves of some plants
lower the surface velocity of sand-carrying winds
and protect the ground from erosion. Even small
fungi and microscopic plant organisms found on
the soil surface can be a vital link in preventing
erosion and providing support for other living

Deserts typically have a plant cover that is sparse

but enormously diverse. The Sonoran Desert of
the American Southwest has the most complex Flora of Baja California Desert, Cataviña ,Mexico
desert vegetation on Earth. The giant saguaro
Sandip Patil Department of Landscape Architecture, CEPT University LA - 9106
Geology & Geomorphology Wind Action & Desert Landscapes 6

cacti provide nests for desert birds and serve as "trees" of the desert. Saguaro grows slowly but may
live 200 years. When fully grown, saguaro is 15 meters tall and weighs as much as 10 tons. Although
cacti are often thought of as characteristic desert plants, other types of plants have adapted well to the
arid environment. They include the pea and sunflower families. Cold deserts have grasses and shrubs
as dominant vegetation.

Rain does fall occasionally in deserts, and desert storms are often violent. A record 44 millimeters of
rain once fell within 3 hours in the Sahara. Though little rain falls in deserts, deserts receive runoff from
ephemeral, or short-lived, streams fed considerable quantities of sediment for a day or two. Although
most deserts are in basins with closed or interior drainage, a few deserts are crossed by 'exotic' rivers
that derive their water from outside the desert. Such rivers infiltrate soils and evaporate large amounts
of water on their journeys through the deserts, but their volumes are such that they maintain their
continuity. The Nile River, the Colorado River, and the Yellow River are exotic rivers that flow through
deserts to deliver their sediments to the sea. Deserts may also have underground springs, rivers, or
reservoirs that lay close to the surface, or deep underground. Plants that have not completely adapted
to sporadic rainfalls in a desert environment may tap into underground water sources that do not
exceed the reach of their root systems.

Lakes form where rainfall in interior drainage basins is sufficient. Desert lakes are generally shallow,
temporary, and salty. Because these lakes are shallow and have a low bottom gradient, wind stress
may cause the lake waters to move over many square kilometers. When small lakes dry up, they leave
a salt crust or hardpan. The flat area of clay, silt, or sand encrusted with salt that forms is known as a
playa. When the occasional precipitation does occur, it erodes the desert rocks quickly and powerfully.
Winds are the other factor that erodes deserts - they are constant yet slow.

Mineral resources
Some mineral deposits are formed, improved, or preserved by geologic processes that occur in arid
lands as a consequence of climate. Ground water leaches ore minerals and redeposits them in zones
near the water table. This leaching process concentrates these minerals as ore that can be mined.

Evaporation in arid lands enriches mineral accumulation in their lakes. Playas may be sources of
mineral deposits formed by evaporation. Water evaporating in closed basins precipitates minerals such
as gypsum, salts (including sodium nitrate and sodium chloride), and borates. The minerals formed in
these evaporite deposits depend on the composition and temperature of the saline waters at the time of
deposition. The Atacama Desert of South America is unique among the deserts of the world in its great
abundance of saline minerals. Sodium nitrate has been mined for explosives and fertilizer in the
Atacama since the middle of the 19th century.

Nonmetallic mineral resources and rocks such as beryllium, mica, lithium, clays, pumice, and scoria
occur in arid regions. Sodium carbonate, sulfate, borate, nitrate, lithium, bromine, iodine, calcium, and
strontium compounds come from sediments and near-surface brines formed by evaporation of inland
bodies of water, often during geologically recent times.

Some of the more productive petroleum areas on Earth are found in arid and semiarid regions of Africa
and the Mideast, although the oil fields were originally formed in shallow marine environments. Recent
climate change has placed these reservoirs in an arid environment. Other oil reservoirs, however, are
presumed to be Aeolian in origin and are presently found in humid environments.

Desert Landscapes
Deserts are often composed of sand and rocky surfaces. Sand dunes called ergs and stony surfaces
called Reg or hamada surfaces compose a minority of desert surfaces. Exposures of rocky terrain are
typical, and reflect minimal soil development and sparseness of vegetation. Bottom lands may be salt-
covered flats. Aeolian processes are major factors in shaping desert landscapes. Cold deserts have
similar features but the main form of precipitation is snow rather than rain. Deserts sometimes contain
valuable mineral deposits that were formed in the arid environment or that were exposed by erosion.
Being dry, deserts are ideal places for human artifacts and fossils to be preserved.

Sandip Patil Department of Landscape Architecture, CEPT University LA - 9106

Geology & Geomorphology Wind Action & Desert Landscapes 7

Sand covers only about 20 percent of Earth's deserts. Most of the sand is in sand sheets and sand
seas. There are 6 forms of deserts:
• Mountain and basin deserts;
• Hamada deserts, which comprise of plateau landforms;
• Regs which consist of rock pavements;
• Ergs which are formed by sand seas;
• Intermontane Basins; and
• Badlands located at the margins of arid lands comprising of clay-rich soil.

Nearly all desert surfaces are plains where Aeolian deflation has exposed loose gravels consisting
predominantly of pebbles but with occasional cobbles. The remaining surfaces of arid lands are
composed of exposed bedrock outcrops, desert soils, and fluvial deposits including alluvial fans, playas,
desert lakes, and oases. Bedrock outcrops commonly occur as small mountains surrounded by
extensive erosional plains.

Aeolian Processes
Aeolian processes pertain to the activity of the winds and are commonly referred to as wind erosion.
Winds may erode, transport, and deposit materials, and are effective agents in regions with sparse
vegetation and a large supply of unconsolidated sediments. Although water is much more powerful than
wind, Aeolian processes are important in arid environments such as deserts.

Aeolian erosion
By itself, wind can only remove dry
deposits. This process is known as
deflation, as a result of which the land
surface is lowered. The sand grains thus
acquired by wind near the ground surface,
become powerful agents of erosion, a
process known as abrasion. Wind thus
erodes the Earth's surface by deflation
and abrasion.

Deflation is the lifting and removal of

loose, fine-grained particles, as a result of
the turbulent eddy action of the wind.
Almost half of Earth's desert surfaces are
stony deflation zones and have desert
The sand and rock of China's Turpan Depression
pavement landscape. The rock mantle in
desert pavements protects the underlying material.

Blow Outs
Deflation basins, called blowouts, are hollows formed by the removal of particles by wind. Sand grains
are rolled or skipped along the surface and comprise the bed load. In such a way, the entire bed is
lowered, in some cases up to one metre, resulting in shallow depressions called blowouts. This
depression may be a few metres to as much as a kilometer across. Blowouts are also found on rock
surfaces subjected to disintegration by weathering.

Abrasion is the wearing down of surfaces by the grinding action and sand blasting of windborne
particles. Larger particles are rounded, but the finer particles, about 0.06-0.2mm in diameter, are
usually angular. Winnowing action of wind sorts these particles according to their sizes. Wind-driven
grains abrade landforms. Grinding by particles carried in the wind creates grooves or small depressions
and creates ventifacts. Sculpted landforms, called yardangs, up to tens of meters high and kilometers
long are streamlined by desert winds. The famous sphinx at Giza in Egypt is believed to be a modified

Sandip Patil Department of Landscape Architecture, CEPT University LA - 9106

Geology & Geomorphology Wind Action & Desert Landscapes 8

Undercutting is a marked feature of wind abrasion, being most effective within 30-60 cms of the
surface where saltating sand is abundant. Alcoves and caverns may be hollowed along the base of
escarpments. Rocks formed by undercutting are known as Pedestal Rock.

Joints are attacked and opened up, forming outlines of Rock Towers or pinnacles, left isolated near
receding walls of escarpment.

Cathedral Spire, Garden of Gods, USA Undercutting, Arches National Park, USA

Aeolian transportation
Particles are transported by winds through
suspension, saltation, and creep.

Small particles may be held in the

atmosphere in Suspension. Upward
currents of air support the weight of
suspended particles and hold them
indefinitely in the surrounding air. Typical
winds near Earth's surface suspend
particles less than 0.2 millimeters in
diameter and scatter them aloft as dust or

Saltation moves small particles in the

direction of the wind in a series of short
hops or skips. Sand-size particles are lifted no more than one centimeter above the ground, and are
transported at one-half to one-third the speed of the wind. A saltating grain may hit other grains that
jump up to continue the saltation.

Surface creep accounts for as much as 25 percent of grain movement in a desert. Saltating grains hit
larger grains that are too heavy to hop, but creep forward as they are pushed forward.

Transportation generally follows the following pattern:

Dust - smaller particles - suspension
Sand - medium particles - saltation
Pebbles - larger particles - creep
Sandip Patil Department of Landscape Architecture, CEPT University LA - 9106
Geology & Geomorphology Wind Action & Desert Landscapes 9

Dust Storm
Aeolian turbidity currents are better known as dust storms. Air over deserts is cooled significantly when
rain passes through it. This cooler and denser air sinks toward the desert surface. When it reaches the
ground, the air is deflected forward and sweeps up surface debris in its turbulence as a dust storm.
Dust storms blowing over desert surfaces lift great quantity of fine dust into the air. As much as a
thousand metric tones of dust may be suspended in a cubic kilometer of air. Dust from a single storm
may be traced as much as four thousand kilometers away. In the Thar Desert, continued trampling of
fine textured soils produces a blanket of dusty hot air that hangs over the region for a long period, and
may extend upto nine kilometers into the atmosphere. Crops, people, villages, and possibly even
climates are affected by dust storms. Some dust storms are intercontinental, a few may circle the globe,
and occasionally they may engulf entire planets. Small whirlwinds, called dust devils, are common in
arid lands and are thought to be related to very intense local heating of the air that result in instabilities
of the air mass. Dust devils may be as much as one kilometer high.

Aeolian Deposition
Wind-deposited materials hold clues to past as well as to present wind directions and intensities. These
features help us understand the present climate and the forces that molded it. Wind-deposited sand
bodies occur as sand sheets, ripples, and dunes.

Sand Sheets
Sand sheets are flat, gently undulating sandy plots of sand surfaced by grains that may be too large for
saltation. They are expanses of horizontally laid Aeolian sand devoid of dunes. The surface is usually
rippled. Pits generally display layers of two distinct grain sizes. This is due to the fact that larger grains
are transported by creep, while smaller ones saltate. Dunes are absent due to presence of strong
winds, and if the winds are sand-laden, even ripple formation is suppressed. Sand sheets are formed
on borders of deserts having scanty vegetation. Movement of sand may be suppressed by desert
pavements, vegetation, etc. Sand sheets form approximately 40 percent of Aeolian depositional
surfaces. The Selima Sand Sheet, which occupies 60,000 square kilometers in southern Egypt and
northern Sudan, is one of the Earth's largest sand sheets. The Selima is absolutely flat in some places;
in others, active dunes move over its surface.

Wind blowing on a sand surface ripples
the surface into crests and troughs
whose long axes are perpendicular to the
wind direction. The average length of
jumps during saltation corresponds to the
wavelength, or distance between
adjacent crests, of the ripples. In ripples,
the coarsest materials collect at the
crests. This distinguishes small ripples
from dunes, where the coarsest Wind-blown sand moves up the gentle upwind side of the dune by
materials are generally in the troughs. saltation or creep. When the buildup of sand accumulating at the
top of the slipface at the brink exceeds the angle of repose, a
Accumulations of sediment blown by the small avalanche of grains slides down the slipface. Grain by grain,
the dune moves downwind.
wind into a mound or ridge, dunes have
gentle upwind slopes on the wind-facing
side. The downwind portion of the dune, the lee slope, is commonly a steep avalanche slope referred to
as a slipface. Dunes may have more than one slipface. The minimum height of a slipface is about 30

As sand is blown across flat desert plains, it may scour out hollows where the rocks are softer.
However, the depth of these depressions is restricted by presence of underground water. If a water
soaked layer is reached, the particles of sand will bind together. They will be too heavy to be carried or
picked up by wind. Vegetation will start appearing, creating the rare landscape of oasis. Oases are

Sandip Patil Department of Landscape Architecture, CEPT University LA - 9106

Geology & Geomorphology Wind Action & Desert Landscapes 10

vegetated areas moistened by springs, wells, or by irrigation. Many are artificial. Oases are often the
only places in deserts that support crops and permanent habitation.

Loess is an accumulation of winnowed
dust transported by wind. Most of the
dust carried by dust storms is in the
form of silt-size particles. The thickest
known deposit of loess, 335 meters, is
on the Loess Plateau in China. In
Europe and in the Americas,
accumulations of loess are generally
from 20 to 30 meters thick. Particles in
loess vary between 0.01-0.05 mm.
Some loess may be washed down by
rain, although they are most common
where wind loses velocity, eg. Wind
Loess Deposits
over mountains entering plains.

Desert Varnish
Desert varnish is a dark coating on rocks found in arid regions, composed dominantly of fine-grained
clay minerals containing black manganese oxide and red iron oxide. Varnish can be a prominent feature
in many landscapes. It often coats canyon walls. Earlier it was believed varnish was made from
substances drawn out of the rocks it coats. Microscopic and observations show that a major part of
varnish is clay which could only arrive by wind. Clay acts as a substrate to catch additional substances
that chemically react together when the rock reaches high temperatures in the desert sun. Wetting by
dew is also important in the process. Desert varnish has a high concentration of manganese, 50 to 60
times more abundant than elsewhere. This enrichment is thought to be caused by biochemical
processes (many species of bacteria use manganese). The clay minerals represent the clays found
locally in the region where the varnish develops. Black manganese oxide (birnesite) and red iron oxide
(hematite) add color. Desert varnish forms only on physically stable rock surfaces that are no longer
subject to frequent precipitation, fracturing or sandblasting.

Pteroglyphs have been created by chipping away

varnish to expose lighter rock & thus draw.
Desert Varnish (Photo: Indian Pteroglyph Park, New Mexico, USA.)
Desert varnish often obscures the identity of the underlying rock, and different rocks have varying
abilities to accept and retain varnish. Limestones, for example, typically do not have varnish because
they are too water soluble and therefore do not provide a stable surface for varnish to form. Shiny,
dense and black varnishes form on basalt, fine quartzites and metamorphosed shales due to these
rocks' relatively high resistance to weathering.

Desert Pavement
A desert pavement is a desert surface that is covered with closely packed, interlocking angular or
rounded rock fragments of pebble and cobble size, formed by the gradual removal of the sand, dust and
other fine grained material by the wind and intermittent rain. Frequently the stones are polished by the
Sandip Patil Department of Landscape Architecture, CEPT University LA - 9106
Geology & Geomorphology Wind Action & Desert Landscapes 11

abrasion of wind-borne dust and may even be shaped by the wind, becoming ventifacts. Desert
pavement surfaces are often coated with desert varnish.

Desert pavements are only one or two fragments thick that form a mosaic in a matrix of fine sediment.
Coarse fragments are alluvial pebbles, gravel, and cobbles, or debris weathered from bedrock. Desert
pavements cover areas ranging from a few square meters to hundreds of square kilometers. They
occur mostly in sand-poor regions, such as desert plains
near bedrock outcrops, on plateaus, in dry wadis and Dreikanter (Ventifacts)
terraces, and on alluvial fans. Evolution of the surface is Isolated pebbles or rock fragments lying
due to accretion on the desert surfaces are beveled on
And deflation due to wind action, water sorting, and windward side until a smooth surface is
upward migration of coarse particles by freezing/thawing cut. If the direction of wind changes
or by wetting/drying cycles. seasonally, or pebble is shifted by some
means, more than one face is cut in,
Some older pavement areas are remarkably smooth and and each pair meets in a sharp edge.
flat with no large fragments protruding above the
surface. Such areas are commonly found on smaller
fans; low, arched fans; outer reaches of large fans and
outwash flats; terraces and flood plains along drainage
courses. In young pavement areas, many of the larger
fragments are cobbles and boulders about 15 to 30 cm
across or larger, which protrude significantly above the
surrounding terrain. Exposed surfaces of the coarse
fragments are commonly coated with desert varnish.
Little vegetation is present except where soils have
developed beneath the pavement.

Diagram representing the various landscapes created in the deserts.

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Geology & Geomorphology Wind Action & Desert Landscapes 12

Desert Pavement Salt lake and evaporite basins in Qaidam

Depression, China (highest desert in the world)
Salt pan
Salt pan is a flat expanse of ground covered with salt and other minerals, usually shining white under
the sun, where water pools when it rains. A salt pan would be a lake or a pond if it was in a location in a
climate where the rate of water evaporation wasn't faster than the rate of water precipitation. If the water
is unable to drain into the ground, it sits on the surface until it evaporates. When the water evaporates,
it leaves behind whatever minerals were dissolved in it. Over thousands of years, the minerals
accumulate until the surface is white with it. Salt pans can be dangerous. The crust of salt can conceal
a quagmire of mud that can engulf a truck. The Qattara Depression in the eastern Sahara desert
contains many such traps. High salinity will also lead to a unique flora and fauna in the lake in question.
If the amount of water flowing into a lake is less than the amount evaporated, the lake will eventually
disappear and leave a salt flat or playa.

Playa is a dry lake-bed, generally the shore of, or remnant of, an endorheic lake. An endorheic basin is
a watershed from which there is no outflow of water, either on the surface as rivers, or underground by
flow or diffusion through rock or permeable material. Any precipitation that falls in such a basin remains
there permanently, leaving the system only by evaporation.

Playa consists of fine-grained sediments infused with alkali salts. Their surface is generally very dry,
hard and smooth in the summer months, but wet and very soft in the winter months. While the playa
itself will be devoid of vegetation, they are commonly ringed by salt-tolerant plants that provide critical
winter fodder for herbivores. Many playas contain shallow lakes in the winter, especially during wet
years. If the layer of water is thin and is moved around the playa by the wind, an exceedingly hard and
smooth surface can develop. Thicker layers of water can result in a "cracked-mud" surface.

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Geology & Geomorphology Wind Action & Desert Landscapes 13

A playa lake in the Thar Desert, Rajasthan, India.

A yardang is a rock ridge
feature caused by wind
and water erosion found
in deserts and may form
very unusual shapes.
Yardangs form as the
result of preferential
erosion of surrounding
media. In desert
environments, mildly
cemented "cores" of
sediment form the basis
for the structure. Loose
sediment surrounding the
cemented section erodes
faster, leaving the core
behind. Yardangs are
elongate, with their long
axis parallel to the
Yardangs of Lut desert, Iran. (Largest on the earth)
prevailing wind direction.
One side is almost always
steeper than the other, similar to the shape of a dune. However, in yardangs the blunt, steeper side is
the windward side while the shallower slope is on the leeward side.

Yardangs are classified on basis of size as:

• Mega-yardangs can be several kilometers long and hundreds of meters high. A large concentration of
mega-yardangs is found near the Tibesti Mountains in the central Sahara.
• Meso-yardangs are generally a few meters high and 10 to 15 meters long. They are more common,
and can be found throughout the Sahara.
• Micro-yardangs are only a few centimeters high.

Alluvial Fan
An alluvial fan is a fan-shaped deposit formed where a fast flowing stream flattens, slows, and spreads
onto a flatter plain. A convergence of neighboring alluvial fans into a single apron of deposits against a
slope is called a bajada, or compound alluvial fan. Owing to the slowing of flow any solid material
carried by the water is dropped. As this reduces the capacity of the channel, the channel will change
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Geology & Geomorphology Wind Action & Desert Landscapes 14

direction over time, gradually building up a slightly mounded or shallow conical fan shape. The deposits
are in general poorly-sorted. Plants are often concentrated at the base of alluvial fans and many have
long tap roots (30-50 feet) to reach water. The long-rooted plants are called phreatophytes. The water
at this level is derived from water that has seeped through the fan and hit an impermeable layer that
funneled the water to the base of the fan where it is concentrated and sometimes forms springs and
seeps if the water is close enough to the surface.

Any relatively flat surface of bedrock (exposed or veneered with alluvial soil or gravel) that occurs at the
base of a mountain or as a plain having no associated mountain is known as a pediment. Pediments,
sometimes mistaken for groups of merged alluvial fans, are most conspicuous in basin-and-range-type
desert areas throughout the world. The angle of a pediment's slope is generally from 0.5° to 7°. Its form
is slightly concave, and it is typically found at the base of hills in arid regions where rainfall is irregular
and intense for brief periods of time. There is frequently a sharp break of slope between the pediment
and the steeper hillside above it. Water passes across the pediment by laminar sheet flow, but if this is
disturbed, the flow becomes turbulent and gullies develop.


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Geology & Geomorphology Wind Action & Desert Landscapes 15

Weathering and dissection consumes almost all the mountains over a period of time. Mountains are
reduced to a few large bedrock knobs projecting above surrounding pediment and sediment filled basin,
known as an inselberg.

Ayer’s Rock, Australia

In arid regions, erosion strips away
successive rock layers, leaving
behind plateaus capped by hard
rock layers. Cliffs retreat near
perpendicular surfaces since weak
shale formations exposed at cliff
base are rapidly washed away by
storm runoff. When weakened, the
rock in the upper cliff face breaks
away along vertical joint fractures,
producing mesas. A mesa can also
be described as a table topped
plateau bordered on all sides by

A mesa reduced in area by retreat
of cliffs forming the rim, it maintains
the top. This retained landform is
butte, and may collapse over a
period of time.

Mesas and buttes are erosional

landforms created by water, and
seen prominently in Monument
Valley in USA.

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Geology & Geomorphology Wind Action & Desert Landscapes 16

Sand Deposition
Factors controlling the form of sand accumulations are:
ƒ Nature, extent and rate of erosion of sediment source
ƒ Sizes of sand grains and associated fragments
ƒ Strength, variance, duration and direction of wind
ƒ Texture of transportation and deposition surfaces

Three main forms of sand deposition are:

ƒ Sand Drifts in form of cliff shadow regions, protruding rocks or vegetation
ƒ Dunes, transverse and longitudinal
ƒ Sand sheets in interdune and extradune areas

Sand Dunes
A dune is a mound or ridge of wind-blown sand rising to a definite summit or crest. Bare dunes are
subject to shifting location and size based on their interaction with the wind. The "valley" or trough
between dunes is called a slack. A "dune field" is an area covered by extensive sand dunes. Dunes
have a remarkable capability to collect sand from nearby areas. Sand is transported over relatively hard
and smooth interdune areas more readily than over dunes where wind experiences drag. Thus saltating
sand is blown obliquely towards existing dunes and intervening surface is swept bare. This factor also
dictates the shape of the dune. Dunes also form under the action of water flow (alluvial processes), on
sand or gravel beds of rivers, estuaries and the sea-bed. The word 'dune' derives from a medieval
Germanic word - "dun", a hill. Dunes are classified on the basis of shape as:

Transverse Dunes
These dunes have a long, low- angle windward slope rising to a crest. A much steeper leeward slope is
formed by sand coming to rest at its natural angle of repose of about 34° in the wind shadow part.
When sand accumulates further, there is an avalanche wherein the coarsest and roundest grains
surface and travel farthest, while the slope, known as slip-face, is reduced to 30°. Ripple is a low angle
climbing deposition seen over sand sheets and transverse dunes. Cross winds may form large ripples
across slip-face.

Crescentic Dunes
The most common dune form on Earth is the crescentic. Mounds generally are wider than long. The
slipface is on the dune's concave side. These dunes form under winds that blow from one direction. If
the sand is short in supply, a series of smaller cresent shaped dunes known as barchans are formed.
They may migrate through continuous transport of sand, towards the leeward directions. Some types of
crescentic dunes move faster over desert surfaces than any other type of dune. A group of dunes
moved more than 100 meters per year in China's Ningxia Province. The largest crescentic dunes on
Earth, with mean crest-to-crest widths of more than 3 kilometers, are in China's Taklamakan Desert.

Longitudinal Dunes
Longitudinal dunes elongate parallel to the prevailing wind, caused by a larger dune having its smaller
sides blown away. They are sharp-crested and common in the Sahara. They range up to 300 m in
height and 300 km in length. They are thought to develop from barchans if a change of wind direction
occurs. The new wind direction will lead to the development of a new wing and the overdevelopment of
one of the original wings. If the prevailing wind then becomes dominant for a lengthy period of time the
dune will revert to its barchan form, with one exaggerated wing. Should the strong wind then return the
exaggerated wing will further extend so that eventually it will be supplied with sand when the prevailing
wind returns. The wing will continue to grow under both wind conditions, thus producing a seif dune. On
a seif dune the slip face develops on the side facing away from the strong wind.

Linear Dunes
Straight or slightly sinuous sand ridges typically much longer than they are wide are known as linear
dunes. They may be more than 160 kilometers long. Linear dunes may occur as isolated ridges, but
they generally form sets of parallel ridges separated by miles of sand, gravel, or rocky interdune
corridors. Some linear dunes merge to form Y-shaped compound dunes. Many form in bidirectional
wind regimes. The long axes of these dunes extend in the resultant direction of sand movement.
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Geology & Geomorphology Wind Action & Desert Landscapes 17

Star Dunes
Radially symmetrical, star dunes are pyramidal sand mounds with slipfaces on three or more arms that
radiate from the high center of the mound. They tend to accumulate in areas with multidirectional wind
regimes. Star dunes grow upward rather than laterally. They dominate the Grand Erg Oriental of the
Sahara. In other deserts, they occur around the margins of the sand seas, particularly near topographic
barriers. In the southeast Badain Jaran Desert of China, the star dunes are up to 500 meters tall and
may be the tallest dunes on Earth.

Dome Dunes
Oval or circular mounds generally lacking a slipface, dome dunes are rare and occur at the far upwind
margins of sand seas.

Parabolic Dunes
U-shaped mounds of sand with convex noses trailed by elongated arms are parabolic dunes.
Sometimes these dunes are called U-shaped, blowout, or hairpin dunes, and they are well known in
coastal deserts. Unlike crescentic dunes, their crests point upwind. The elongated arms of parabolic
dunes follow rather than lead because they have been fixed by vegetation, while the bulk of the sand in
the dune migrates forward.

Barchans Longitudinal Dunes

Parabolic Dunes
Linear Dunes

Transverse Dunes Star Dunes

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Geology & Geomorphology Wind Action & Desert Landscapes 18

Reversing Dunes
Occurring wherever winds periodically reverse direction, reversing dunes are varieties of any of the
above shapes. These dunes typically have major and minor slipfaces oriented in opposite directions.

All these dune shapes may occur in three forms: simple, compound, and complex. Simple dunes are
basic forms with a minimum number of slipfaces that define the geometric type. Compound dunes are
large dunes on which smaller dunes of similar type and slipface orientation are superimposed, and
complex dunes are combinations of two or more dune types. A crescentic dune with a star dune
superimposed on its crest is the most common complex dune. Simple dunes represent a wind regime
that has not changed in intensity or direction since the formation of the dune, while compound and
complex dunes suggest that the intensity and direction of the wind has changed.

Dune types
Sub-aqueous dunes
Sub-aqueous (underwater) dunes form on a bed of sand or gravel under the actions of water flow. They
are commonly found in natural channels such as rivers and estuaries, and also form in engineered
canals and pipelines. Dunes move downstream as the upstream slope is eroded and the sediment
deposited on the downstream or lee slope. These dunes most often form as a continuous 'train' of
dunes, showing remarkable similarity in wavelength and height. Dunes on the bed of a channel
significantly increase flow resistance, their presence and growth playing a major part in river flooding.

Lithified dunes
A lithified (consolidated) sand dune is a type of sandstone that is formed when a marine or eolian sand
dune becomes compacted and hardened. Once in this form, water passing through the rock can carry
and deposit minerals, which can alter the hue of the rock. Cross-bedded layers of stacks of lithified
dunes can produce the cross-hatching patterns.

Coastal dunes
Dunes form on coasts where the backshore can support and onshore winds encourage the
accumulation of sand blown inland from off a beach. Any part of the upper beach, once dry, can lose
sand to the wind, especially if the sand is fine, and dune formation proceeds in the direction towards
which the predominant wind direction is blowing. Deposition may start when sand is trapped behind
surface irregularities or vegetation. Dunes provide privacy and shelter from the wind. Some coastal
areas have one or more sets of dunes running parallel to the shoreline directly inland from the beach. In
most such cases the dunes are important in protecting the land against potential ravages by storm
waves from the sea. Although the most widely distributed dunes are those associated with coastal
regions, the largest complexes of dunes are found inland in dry regions and associated with ancient
lake or sea beds.

Sand Dune Arch

Arches are a kind of desert
formation found in the Arches
National Park in USA. The
national park lies atop an
underground salt bed, which is
basically responsible for the
arches and spires, balanced
rocks, sandstone fins, and
eroded monoliths in the area.
Thousands of feet thick in
places, this salt bed was
deposited over the Colorado
Plateau some 300 million years
ago when a sea flowed into the
region and eventually
evaporated. Over millions of
Delicate Arch, Arches National Park, USA
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Geology & Geomorphology Wind Action & Desert Landscapes 19

years, the salt bed was covered with residue from floods and winds and the oceans that came in
intervals, much of which was compressed into rock.

Salt under pressure is unstable, and the salt bed below was no match for the weight of this thick cover
of rock. It shifted, buckled, liquefied, and repositioned itself, thrusting the earth layers upward into
domes. As this subsurface movement of salt shaped the earth, surface erosion stripped away the
younger rock layers. Over time water seeped into the superficial cracks, joints, and folds of these
layers. Ice formed in the fissures, expanding and putting pressure on surrounding rock, breaking off bits
and pieces. Winds later cleaned out the loose particles. A series of free-standing fins remained. Wind
and water attacked these fins until, in some, the cementing material gave way and chunks of rock
tumbled out. Many damaged fins collapsed, while others, with the right degree of hardness and
balance, survived despite their missing sections, forming arches.

One of the biggest problems posed by sand dunes is their encroachment on human habitats. Sand
dunes move through a few different means, all of them helped along by wind. One way that dunes can
move is through saltation, where sand particles skip along the ground like a rock thrown across a pond
might skip across the water's surface. When these skipping particles land, they may knock into other
particles and cause them to skip as well. With slightly stronger winds, particles collide in mid-air,
causing sheet flows. In a major dust storm, dunes may move tens of meters through such sheet flows.
And like snow, sand avalanches, falling down the steep slopes of the dunes that face away from the
winds, also moving the dunes forward.

Dune habitats provide niches for highly specialized plants and animals, including numerous rare and
endangered species. Due to human population expansion dunes face destruction through recreation
and land development, as well as alteration to prevent encroachment on inhabited areas. Some
countries, notably the USA and Great Britain have developed extensive programs of dune protection.

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Geology & Geomorphology Wind Action & Desert Landscapes 20

Annexure 1: Kalahari Desert

Located in southern Africa, the Kalahari covers an area of over 700,000sq km (270,300sq miles).
Stretching over parts of Namibia, South Africa and much of Botswana, its high altitude at 500-
l,500m (l,600^4900ft) means that the coldest nights can be extreme. The highlands of Angola and
the Okavango river valley form a border to the north, while South Africa's Orange River is a
southern boundary. The Kalahari is the world's second largest protected area.

The sun bakes the Kalahari region for most of the year. Massive rippled sand dunes and vast,
featureless dry lakes make up much of the landscape. The whole area is essentially semi-desert and
supports a surprising range of wildlife. Summer rains in the north bring life-giving water to the
Okavango River which forms a swampy network of lakes and lagoons, carpeting the land with
vegetation. The lush north also attracts herds of grazing animals, and hence hunters such as wild
dogs, hyenas and lions.

Herds of wildebeest, springbok, gemsbok, eland and zebra travel vast distances through the Kalahari
Desert. The breeding of many species coincides with the wet season, when food is more plentiful for
their offspring. Although some herds may stay around the fringes of flood water, many head south at
the beginning of the rainy season in October to avoid the flooding and search for the leaves and grasses
that will provide them with essential moisture. In April, they brave the threat from predators and the
harsh drought conditions, and begin their journey north again.

Plant Food and Shelter

The scrubby terrain and clumps of tough, low-
growing grasses typify the desert landscape of
the southern Kalahari. In the hottest, most
inhospitable regions, only plants with deeper
or tuber-like roots manage to survive,
providing food for the toughest or most
adaptable desert animals. Some plants have
even adapted to the drought conditions by
germinating and producing seeds within four
weeks of a rain shower. With its melon-like
fruit, the tsamma is a vital creeping plant for
animals seeking moisture. In the central area,
thornbushes and acacia trees grow more
abundantly. The white-browed sparrow weaver resourcefully makes grass stem nests over the prickly
spikes of one species of acacia - the winter-thorn tree - and is happy to share its home with up to a
hundred other pairs of weavers. The rains of the northern Kalahari ensure the growth of African ebony,

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Geology & Geomorphology Wind Action & Desert Landscapes 21

sycamore, fig and the ancient baobab tree with its many trunks.
These woodlands with their lush vegetation attract wonderfully
varied wildlife, such as lions, elephants, giraffes and antelopes.

Huge termite mounds a few metres high break up the sparse

southern landscape of the Kalahari. In some areas they form island
towers of baked earth, where the rest of the desert's softer soil
and sand has eroded during the rainy months. The termites' muIti-
chambered nests house several million members, and have air-
conditioned towers and an elaborate system of interconnecting
underground tunnels. In their highly structured societies, termites
organize a division of labour with strictly defined duties. Foragers
find food, construction workers help build and repair the nest,
soldiers protect the colony from attack and nurses tend the young.
At the heart of this empire lies the immense single queen, lying
deep in the mound away from danger.

HABITAT Semi-arid; extensive sandy plains, dunes and salt

pans; trees, scrub, grasses; south much sparser
than north
CLIMATE Low rainfall; hottest period December-March, up to 46°C;-14°C at coldest
BIODIVERSITY Great range of adaptable wildlife, especially in the north

The lack of regular rain has always posed a challenge to the San or Bushmen of the Kalahari. They
survived by gathering food and hunting game on foot with simple hunting tools, such as bows and
arrows with poisoned tips. Women and children gather fruit and nuts, as well as roots and tubers
from desert plants. Some of the older hunting traditions have Wildebeest are hunted by the San,
hunter-gatherers of the Kalahari, who have replaced the traditional poison-tipped arrow with the shotgun.
Illegal hunting, for example of elephants for ivory, is a problem even the Danger of Flooding. Now
one of the two great African desert areas, the Kalahari was fertile in prehistoric times. Global warming is
a possible future danger for plant and animal species. If the floodplains of the Okavango delta north of
the Kalahari are inundated, many species will be seriously affected. Heavier rains in the northern
regions change local habitats, the delicate balance of the region and its wildlife will be upset.

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Geology & Geomorphology Wind Action & Desert Landscapes 22

Annexure 2: Namib Desert

The Namib is a long, narrow coastal desert 1,300km

long and 30-140km wide on the southwestern coast of
Africa. Covering the entire coastline of Namibia, it
reaches north into Angola and south into South Africa.
It is one of the most arid places on earth but not the
hottest, the cold ocean currents and sea fogs acting as
cooling agents. Washed by the Atlantic Ocean, the Namib Desert is a land of contrasts. The Kuiseb
River divides the rocky plains of the north from the sands of the south which contain some of the
world's tallest dunes. The sun beats down by day but without the cover of cloud to trap the day's heat,
night temperatures plummet. Few mammals are year-round residents of the Namib but those that tough
it out include the short-tailed rock hare, the gerbi! and the springbok, an antelope adapted to survive in
drought conditions. But perhaps the most specialized of all is Grant's golden mole which is found
nowhere else. Living in the dunes, this insecl eater is an expert burrower which seems to swim through
the sand. During November and December Africa's largest carnivore, the lion, moves into the Namib to
prey on the newborn pups of the Cape fur seal, closely followed by brown hyenas and jackals who
squabble over the leftovers.

Among the most ingenious of the Namib's invertebrates are the dune beetles. They leave their hidey-
holes on cold, foggy mornings to climb to the top of a dune. Facing the sea, they bend their heads to the
sand and wait for the fog's moisture to condense into droplets on their bodies and roll down to their
mouths. The antlion larva digs pits in the sort sand and waits for ants to drop in to supply it with lunch. If
an ant tries to escape it is blasted with sand. The golden wheel spider escapes its predators by tucking
itself into a ball and rolling down a dune away from trouble.

A surprising number of plants grow in the Namib. The secret of their success is the ability to wait for rain
or to store enough moisture to keep them going. Dotted ail over the desert is the welwitschia, which is
thought to live for up to 2,000 years and grows nowhere else. Special pores open to receive condensed
fog water which is then routed quickly to the stem for storage. Many desert plants' seeds have a special
coating that keeps them viable underground; only a really good soaking will wash the coating off and
allow them to sprout. It is often years before they come alive but when they do the desert is briefly turned
into a blaze of colour.

Few amphibians can tolerate the dry desert but the African bullfrog copes by burying itself in the mud of
a drying river bed and sleeping, sometimes for years, wrapped in a bag thai it excretes from its skin. As
soon as enough rain falls, it eats the bag and embarks on a frenzy of feeding and mating. But it is the
reptiles that predominate here, such as the shovel-nosed lizard which has fringed feel to help it move
easily across the sand.

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Geology & Geomorphology Wind Action & Desert Landscapes 23

The plumage of most birds living in such an open habitat has to act as camouflage against predators like
chanting goshawks and other raptors. Difficult to see until it moves is the dune-dwelling Gray's lark. But
the real master of disguise is the bustard, which has several other features that equip it for life in the
Namib. It is equally at home in the heat and cold and, like Gray's lark, eats almost anything without the
need to drink. But probably its biggest asset is the ability to see through the camouflage of prey and

HABITAT Sandy and gravelly coastal desert

CLIMATE Maximum temperature 35°C (95°F) in high summer; annual average 16-18°C{61-64°n. Nights
much cooler
BIODIVERSITY Many endemic species of flora and fauna specially adapted to cope with arid conditions.

Until its independence in 1990, Namibia

was controlled by South Africa which
resettled some of its black population
along the northeastern fringes of the
Namib Desert. This policy continued until
the end of the 1970s, by which time over-
exploitation of the land by the new settlers
resulted in much of it becoming useless.
One of its effects was the decline of some
of the desert's wildlife including Ruppell's
bustard. In the south along the Diamond
Coast problems still exist for the dune
animals as mining for precious gems and
uranium continues to put pressure on The Skeleton Coast was so named because bones of
them. shipwrecked sailors once scattered its shores.

Much of the Namib Desert is now

a national park known as the
Namib-Naukluft. At nearly 50,000
sq km, it extends from the
Angolan border in a narrow strip
along the length of the Skeleton
Coast to an area around Walvis
Bay. South of Walvis Bay the
park extends inland to
encompass some of the semi-
arid regions and as far south as
Luderitz. Due to the persuasive
powers of an entomologist
studying Namib beetles, the park The elephant's foot plant germinates during storms, sending down a root in
is home to a research institute to just one day and growing rapidly, it may then not grow again for years.
study the wildlife.

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Geology & Geomorphology Wind Action & Desert Landscapes 24

Annexure 3: A list of major deserts of the world

• Sahara – in northern Africa. The world's largest desert after Antarctica.
• Kalahari – desert in southern Africa.
• Namib – desert in southern Africa.

• Antarctica The interior of the continent is the world's largest desert.

• Gobi – desert of Mongolia.
• Taklamakan – desert in China.
• Ordos – desert of China.
• Taklamakan – Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region of the People's Republic of China.
• Kara Kum – deserts in Central Asia.
• Kyzyl Kum – Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan.
• Thar-Cholistan desert in India and Pakistan.

• Gibson Desert – central Australia
• Great Sandy Desert – northwestern Australia
• Great Victoria Desert – central Australia
• Simpson Desert – central Australia
• Tanami Desert – northern Australia
• Little Sahara – Kangaroo Island, South Australia

• Tabernas Desert – Almería, Spain
• Bledowska Desert – Lesser Poland Voivodeship, Poland
• Pooma Desert Holland
• Davit Gareji – Kakheti, Georgia

Latin America:
• La Guajira Desert – in northern Colombia and some of northwestern Venezuela.
• Atacama – desert in Chile. The driest desert on Earth.
• Patagonian Desert.

Middle East:
• Al-Dahna Desert – west of the Eastern Province, Saudi Arabia
• Dasht-e Kavir – central Iran.
• Dasht-e Lut – southeastern Iran.
• Empty Quarter, Arabian Peninsula – the world's largest sand desert
• Judean Desert – eastern Israel and West Bank.
• Nefud Desert – northern Saudi Arabia
• Negev – southern Israel
• Desert of Sin / Zin Desert (Bible usage) – Sinai Peninsula.

North America:
• Mojave desert.
• Great Basin desert.
• Sonoran desert.
• Chihuahuan desert.

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Geology & Geomorphology Wind Action & Desert Landscapes 25

Annexure 4: Names for specific winds in certain regions

In ancient Greek mythology, the four winds were personified as gods, called the Anemoi. These included Boreas,
Notos, Euros, and Zephyros. The Ancient Greeks also observed the seasonal change of the winds, as evidenced
by the Tower of the Winds in Athens.

In modern usage, many local wind systems have their own names. For example:

Alizé (northeasterly across central Africa and the Caribbean)

Alizé Maritime (a wet, fresh northerly wind across west central Africa)
Amihan (northeasterly wind across the Philippines)
Bayamo (a violent wind on Cuba's southern coast)
Bora (northeasterly from eastern Europe to Italy)
Chinook (warm dry westerly off the Rocky Mountains)
Etesian/Meltemi (northerly across Greece and Turkey)
Föhn (warm dry southerly off the northern side of the Alps and the North Italy)
Fremantle Doctor (afternoon sea breeze from the Indian Ocean which cools Perth during summer)
Gilavar (south wind in the Absheron Peninsula)
Gregale (northeasterly from Greece)
Habagat (southwesterly wind across the Philippines)
Harmattan (dry northerly wind across central Africa)
Halny (in northern Carpathians)
Khamsin (southeasterly from north Africa to the eastern Mediterranean)
Khazri (cold north wind in the Absheron Peninsula)
Kosava (strong and cold southeasterly season wind in Serbia)
Levanter (easterly through Strait of Gibraltar)
Libeccio (southwesterly towards Italy)
Marin (south-easterly from Mediterranean to France)
Mistral (cold northerly from central France and the Alps to Mediterranean)
Nor'easter (eastern United States)
Nor'wester (Brings rain to the West New Zealand, and warm dry winds to the East New Zealand)
Santa Ana winds (southern California)
Simoom (strong, dry, desert wind that blows in the Sahara, Palestine, Jordan, Syria, and Arabia)
Sirocco (southerly from north Africa to southern Europe)
Southerly Buster (rapidly arriving low pressure cell that dramatically cools Sydney during summer)
Tramontane (cold northwesterly from Pyrenees or northeasterly from Alps to the Mediterranean)
Vendavel (westerly through Strait of Gibraltar)
Zonda wind (on the eastern slope of the Andes in Argentina)

Annexure 5: Meteorological instruments to measure wind speed and/or direction

Anemometer (measures wind speed, either directly, e.g. with rotating cups, or indirectly, e.g. via
pressure differences or the propagation speed of ultrasound signals)
Rawinsonde (GPS-based wind measurement is performed by the probe)
Weather balloon (passive measurement, balloon position is tracked from the ground visually or via radar;
wind profile is computed from drift rate and the theoretical speed of ascent)
Weather vane (used to indicate wind direction)
Windsock (primarily used to indicate wind direction, may also be used to estimate wind speed by its

Sandip Patil Department of Landscape Architecture, CEPT University LA - 9106

Geology & Geomorphology Wind Action & Desert Landscapes 26

Annexure 6: World’s Highest Dunes

from Height from
Base Sea Level
Dune (meters) (meters) Location Notes
Isaouane-n-Tifernine Sand Sea, Highest in
Highest Dune 465 ~1,980 Algerian Sahara Africa
Big Daddy/ Sossuvlei Dunes, Namib Desert,
Dune 7 383 Namibia
Great Sand Dunes National Park, Highest in
Star Dune 230 2,730 Colorado, USA North America
Highest in
Dune of Pilat 105 130 Bay of Arcachon, Aquitaine, France Europe
Mount Highest in
Tempest 280 280 Moreton Bay, Brisbane, Australia Australia
Badain Jaran Badain Jaran Desert, Alashan Plain, World's Tallest
Dunes 500 2,020 Inner Mongolia, Gobi Desert, China Dunes?

Sandip Patil Department of Landscape Architecture, CEPT University LA - 9106

Geology & Geomorphology Wind Action & Desert Landscapes 27


Book References:
• Tarbuck J., Earth Science,
• Wonders of the World, Reader’s Digest
• Duff, Holmes’ Principles of Geology,
• Strange Worlds, Amazing Places
• Wildlife Cards
• Gaia Atlas of Planet Management

Media References:
• Director, Funny People, movie based on animal studies in the Kalahari Desert

CEPT University Seminar Reports:

• Verma Praveen K., Deserts: Geology & Resources, (unpublished)
• Bade Kanchan, Wind Action & Desert Landscape, (unpublished)
• Prabhu M., Wind Actions & Related Forms, (unpublished)
• Puri, Anuradha, Deserts: Changing Landscapes sandblasted by winds, (unpublished)
• Gulawani Ameeta, and others, Wind Erosion & Desert Landscapes, (unpublished)

Internet References:
• Atlas of Population and Environment, American Association of Adavancement of Science
• Caltech
• Desert processes working group, Knowledge Sciences Inc.
• United States Geological Service, publications
• Free online encyclopaedia
ƒ Articles on Wikipedia are contributed by various users, and contain references from
internet, published and unpublished sources. Acknowledgement is made for the same.

Sandip Patil Department of Landscape Architecture, CEPT University LA - 9106