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Wind blows sand into ripples and dunes. Ripples are low ridges of sand. They are usually only a few centimetres high. The ridge crests may be straight or wavy.

Dunes are much larger. Some dunes can grow up to 400 m (1300 feet) high. There are many different shapes of dunes.

Dune slip faces

Wind blowing off the Atlantic Ocean has formed dunes along the coast Gordon of Brazil. These are shown in dark yellow on the superficial geology map Manuel.

Static map.

Wind carries and bounces sand grains over the ground surface. Small depressions or obstacles slow the wind down and it drops its load of sand. The growing mound forms a bigger and bigger barrier to the wind. Over time a crest develops at the top of the mound. Eventually the crest collapses and sand grains fall down a slipface.

Diagram showing how dunes form
Click to view larger and see the legend.

Diagram showing how dunes form.

  1. Wind
  2. Sand
  3. Slip face
  4. Wind
  5. Sand eroded here
  6. Sand deposited here in calm air

Types of dunes

Star dunes form where the wind comes from different directions.

Star dunes. © Getty images

Barchan dunes form where there isn't very much sand and the wind blows in one direction. These dunes are also called crescent dunes. The tips of the crescents point downwind.

Barchan dunes

Transverse dunes form where there is a lot of sand and the wind blows in one direction.

Transverse dunes
Click to view larger and see the legend.

  1. Slip face
  2. Wind


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