Sediment Transport by Splashing

Back when I had a quasi-nice winter garden going, I spent some time thinking about splashback. After a good rain, the lower bits of my plants were always heavily dirt-spattered; this helps spread soil-borne diseases, especially fungal spores, and people on gardening forums were always advising the use of prophylactic mulch.

But I never thought about splashing as an important mechanism of erosion. Cue the squealy foreshadowing violins here, because that was my mistake! [Ominous descending notes! Dunh-dunh-dunnnnnh!].

A paper by David Jon Furbish and colleagues, published recently in JGR Earth Surface, describes the effect of raindrops on sand, as observed with a high-speed camera. The paper’s conclusions strike my non-geomorphologist self as potentially useful to someone, somewhere, but not tremendously earthshattering (this entire process can be described with math! Gasp! Shock!), so why do I blog it? The pictures are pretty.


  1. Brian wrote:

    That’s pretty cool!

    I remember reading a paper that discussed the erosional effectiveness of hail…forgot who that was and why I read it.

    The geomorphologists are very fixated on understanding the most minute detail of any and all erosional process…good times.

  2. Daniel Collins wrote:

    In interesting effect of sediment transport from rain splash in semi-arid environments is that it helps form islands of fertility around solitary plants. Rain falls between plants and jettisons sediment in every which way, including under plants. The return flux from under plants is less because of the overlying leaves/stems. And with the sediment go nutrients.

  3. Lab Lemming wrote:

    Does splashing have any role in the erosion of sea-cliffs?

  4. yami wrote:

    Good question. My guess would be that the limiting factor is the time it takes to crap up the cementation and free a grain or cobble from the matrix – once that happens, it pretty much falls off or is splashed off right away. But I have no idea.


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