What is a Erosion? | Types, Definition, Structure, Function & Facts

What is Erosion?

Erosion is the wear and tear of soil by forces such as water, wind, and ice. Erosion has helped shape many interesting features on the Earth’s surface, including mountain peaks, valleys, and coastlines.

What causes Erosion?

There are different forces in nature that cause erosion. Depending on the type of force, erosion can happen quickly or take thousands of years. The three main forces that cause erosion are water, wind, and ice.

Erosion by Water

Water is the main cause of erosion on Earth. Although water may not seem strong at first glance, it is one of the most powerful forces on the planet. Here are some ways water causes erosion:

Rainfall – Rainfall can cause erosion both when rain falls on the Earth’s surface, known as splash erosion, and when raindrops accumulate and flow in small streams.

Rivers – Rivers can create a significant amount of erosion over time. They break up the particles along the river bed and carry them downstream. An example of river erosion is the Grand Canyon formed by the Colorado River.

Waves – Ocean waves can cause coastal erosion. Shear energy and wave force cause rocks and shorelines to break apart, changing the coastline over time.

Floods – Massive floods can cause very rapid erosion, just like mighty rivers.

Erosion by Wind

Wind is a major type of erosion, especially in arid regions. Wind can cause erosion by picking up and carrying loose particles and dust (called deflation). It can also erode when these fly particles hit the ground and loosen more particles (called abrasion).

Erosion by Glaciers

Glaciers are giant slow-moving glaciers that carve valleys and form mountains. You can go here to learn more about glaciers.

Erosion by other Forces

Living organisms – Small animals, insects and worms can contribute to erosion by breaking up the soil so that it is easier for wind and water to wash it away.

Gravity – Gravity can cause erosion by pulling rocks and other particles up mountain slopes or cliffs. Gravity can cause landslides that can significantly erode an area.

Temperature – The change in temperature caused by the sun heating the rock can cause the rock to expand and crack. This can cause parts to break over time and lead to erosion.

How do Humans Caused Erosion?

Human activity has accelerated the rate of erosion in many areas. This involves agriculture, animal husbandry, deforestation, and building roads and towns. Human activity has eroded about one million acres of topsoil each year.

Erosion Control

There are things that can be done to limit the extent of erosion caused by human activity. This includes planting trees around farmland to protect it from the wind, moving livestock so that pastures regrow, and planting new trees to replace those cut down.

Interesting Facts about Erosion

The word erosion comes from the Latin “erosionem” which means “to gnaw”.

Scientists estimate that the Colorado River has been eroding the Grand Canyon for millions of years.

Wind erosion can cause huge dust storms.

The fastest glacier ever moved seven miles in three months.

Fossils in sedimentary rocks are often discovered by erosion.
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