Blowout Landforms

Blowout in White Sands National Monument, New Mexico

Blowout Landforms Have 2 Main Characteristics:

  1. A depression due to a loss of sand or topsoil by wind
  2. Caused by a loss of vegetation


Example of a Blowout Landform:

White Sands National Monument, New Mexico

What are Blowout Landforms?

A blowout is a depression in the ground where the topsoil or sand has been carried away by the wind.

How Large is a Blowout?

A blowout can be a few feet wide or bigger, and are commonly under 50 feet in diameter. The depth of a blowout may be from a few inches to several feet. In unusual cases, they have grown to several kilometers wide and over 200 feet deep.

How is a Blowout Formed?

If plant growth is eliminated for any reason, and the soil is sandy or loose, wind can blow it away and create a depression in the ground. After a grass fire, sandy or loose topsoil can be blown away. Naturally caused and man-made fires can cause blowouts, if the soil is loose and exposed to the wind.

Other factors that can contribute to blowouts are too much human activity or poor agricultural practices, allowing loose soil to be exposed to the wind. Improper management of herd animals over loose or sandy soil can cause soil to be carried away by winds.

Poor land management during mining operations can cause blowouts in some circumstances. In certain areas, recreational activities with bicycles, motorcycles, ATV’s and other 4 wheel drive vehicles can destroy plant cover and expose loose soil to the wind, causing blowouts.

Common Blowouts

Blowouts occur more often near the seashore where strong winds are frequent and little protection exists to block the wind. Many beach areas have sand dunes behind them where plant growth has established a root system to help stabilize the ground.

When a portion of this vegetation has been removed, the sand underneath can be exposed, permitting strong winds to open up the ground and pull sand from underneath the surrounding area.  A large blowout can develop from a small area that lacks vegetation. At the Ravenmeols Local Nature Reserve in Merseyside, UK, a large blowout has occurred in this way which they now call the Devil’s Hole.

Blowout definition:

A depression or a major loss in vegetation in the ground where the wind has blown away sand or topsoil.

Related: Beaches, Desert, Basin

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