Impacts of Erosion on Air Quality

The following case study is an example of the effects of soil erosion on air quality.

CASE STUDY 4 - Wind Erosion in the Columbia Plateau

The Columbia Plateau of eastern Washington, northeast Oregon, and the Idaho panhandle includes soils that are susceptible to wind erosion. A high concentration of aerosol-size particles (less than 10 micrometers) have contributed to respiratory health problems. Urban areas of the Columbia Plateau have exceeded the allowable limit of airborne particles as defined by the 1990 Clean Air Act. In this area, research has demonstrated that less frequent traffic and/or disturbance especially in crop lands can reduce dust emissions by up-to 94% during severe wind events. In addition, manure, plant residue, and minimizing the fallow period have proven to reduce wind erosion.

Dust blowing over a farmstead from a bare field. Image by the (NOAA) National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration/Department of Commerce.

Map of the Columbia Plateau. Image by the United States Geological Survey

Thinking Question:

Discuss how wind erosion impacts water quality.