Aeolian Processes

Alec Aitken, University of Saskatchewan
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This activity explores the environmental variables that influence wind erosion.

Key words: aeolian, fluid threshold, impact threshold,sedeiment entrainment and transport, particle size analysis

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A second year undergraduate geomorphology course focused on the physical processes of weathering, erosion, transport and deposition of clastic sediments and the landforms created by these processes. A required geosciences course for BSc majors in Environmental Earth Sciences and a senior geosciences elective for BSc majors in Archaeology and Geology.

Skills and concepts that students must have mastered

Solving simple algebraic equations for unknown variables.
Performing on-line searches for information.
Familiarity with MS EXCEL worksheets.
Knowledge of the fluid threshold for sediment entrainment by the wind.

How the activity is situated in the course

Part of a sequence of 3 exercises.


Content/concepts goals for this activity

Students engage in 3 separate but interrelated activities: 1) acquiring sediment samples with a soil auger during a field excursion; 2) sediment particle size analysis by dry sieving(i.e., a laboratory activity); 3) problem solving exercises related to sediment erosion and entrainment by the wind (this activity).

Higher order thinking skills goals for this activity

Problem solving.
Data visualization and interpretation.

Other skills goals for this activity

Students work in pairs to collect sediment samples in the field and to perform particle size analysis in the laboratory.

Description and Teaching Materials

This activity explores the environmental variables that influence wind erosion. The materials included in this activity are:
Aeolian Processes (Microsoft Word 74kB Jun3 14) - problem solving exercises
Aeolian Processes Solution Set (Microsoft Word 90kB Jun3 14)
BCCA Sand Dune Grain Size Data (Excel 28kB Jun3 14) - a MS EXCEL worksheet that presents particle size data for a representative sediment sample collected by students
Particle Size Data (Excel 67kB Jun3 14) - a MS EXCEL worksheet that presents particle size data for 2 samples (i.e., glacial till, aeolian sand sheet)

Teaching Notes and Tips

Students work through the problem solving and data visualization exercises in a 2 hour tutorial lead by the teaching assistant or course instructor. The completed exercise is submitted to the teaching assistant or course instructor the following day. Students are encouraged work cooperatively during the tutorial period.


The teaching assistant is provided with the fully worked solutions for the problem solving exercises, the recommended content for the short written responses, and the required elements for the histograms and ogives (e.g., properly labelled axes, symbols to distinguish between samples, informative titles). A grading scheme is followed to assign marks for each task in this activity.

References and Resources

I direct students to the course lecture notes (posted on Blackboard) and assigned reading in the required course textbook.

Alan S. Trenhaile, 2013. Geomorphology: A Canadian Perspective. 5th Edition. Oxford University Press, Don Mills, Ontario. 575 pages.