Measurement and data analysis methods for field-scale wind erosion studies and model validation

T.M. Zobeck, G. Sterk, R.F. Funk, J.L. Rajot, J.E. Stout, R. Scott Van Pelt

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154 Citations (Scopus)


Accurate and reliable methods of measuring windblown sediment are needed to confirm, validate, and improve erosion models, assess the intensity of aeolian processes and related damage, determine the source of pollutants, and for other applications. This paper outlines important principles to consider in conducting field-scale wind erosion studies and proposes strategies of field data collection for use in model validation and development. Detailed discussions include consideration of field characteristics, sediment sampling, and meteorological stations. The field shape used in field-scale wind erosion research is generally a matter of preference and in many studies may not have practical significance. Maintaining a clear non-erodible boundary is necessary to accurately determine erosion fetch distance. A field length of about 300 m may be needed in many situations to approach transport capacity for saltation flux in bare agricultural fields. Field surface conditions affect the wind profile and other processes such as sediment emission, transport, and deposition and soil erodibility. Knowledge of the temporal variation in surface conditions is necessary to understand aeolian processes. Temporal soil properties that impact aeolian processes include surface roughness, dry aggregate size distribution, dry aggregate stability, and crust characteristics. Use of a portable 2 tall anemometer tower should be considered to quantify variability of friction velocity and aerodynamic roughness caused by surface conditions in field-scale studies. The types of samplers used for sampling aeolian sediment will vary depending upon the type of sediment to be measured. The Big Spring Number Eight (BSNE) and Modified Wilson and Cooke (MWAC) samplers appear to be the most popular for field studies of saltation. Suspension flux may be measured with commercially available instruments after modifications are made to ensure isokinetic conditions at high wind speeds. Meteorological measurements should include wind speed and direction, air temperature, solar radiation, relative humidity, rain amount, soil temperature and moisture. Careful consideration of the climatic, sediment, and soil surface characteristics observed in future field-scale wind erosion studies will ensure maximum use of the data collected.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1163-1188
JournalEarth Surface Processes and Landforms
Publication statusPublished - 2003


  • crushing-energy meter
  • aeolian sand traps
  • size distributions
  • soil properties
  • dust emission
  • saltating particles
  • aggregate abrasion
  • columbia plateau
  • transport
  • sediment


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