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Find Your Science at GSA
30 March 2011
GSA Release No. 11-22
Christa Stratton
Director of Education, Communication, & Outreach

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The Two Sides of Wind: Erosion and Deposition

Boulder, CO, USA – The April/May 2011 issue of The Geological Society of America’s magazine, GSA TODAY, features a study by Paul Kapp (University of Arizona) and colleagues, “Wind erosion in the Qaidam basin, central Asia: Implications for tectonics, paleoclimate, and the source of the Loess plateau.” The research concerns wind as both an agent of erosion in the Qaidam basin and the source of sedimentary dust that built the Loess Plateau. Peer-reviewed GSA TODAY science articles are open access online.

Great mountain belts like the Himalaya are doomed. The Himalaya stand so high that they disrupt the atmosphere and bring down upon themselves monsoonal rains and snow. The great valleys that separate the Himalayan peaks have been scraped and gouged by the icy glaciers that descend down the sides of the towering mountains. Snow, ice, and rain -- together these three “agents” of destruction work constantly to erode away Earth’s high-standing peaks and plateaus.

At least that is how we usually think of erosion. However, as a result of recent field work in the remote Qaidam basin along the northeastern margin of the Tibetan plateau, Kapp and his colleagues are asking us to consider the significance of wind, both as an agent of erosion and of deposition. In their April/May GSA TODAY article, Kapp and colleagues demonstrate that over the past two to three million years, wind erosion has been responsible for the removal of thousands of meters of sedimentary rock from the Qaidam basin. The result is a spectacular landscape of parallel ridges and valleys, all carved by the wind. Kapp et al. point out that the dust and silt carried off by the wind during erosion of the Qaidam basin settled well over a thousand kilometers to the east, blanketing north-central China and forming the Great Loess Plateau. The immense yardang fields of the Qaidam basin, and the thick layers of sedimentary dust of the Loess Plateau, owe their origins to a dry, cold wind that blew across what is now northern China beginning 3 million years ago.

Access the GSA TODAY science article by clicking on the issue cover icon at

Please discuss articles of interest with the authors before publishing stories on their work, and please make reference to GSA TODAY in articles published.