Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, Department of


Date of this Version



Published in The Journal of Geology, 2008, volume 116, p. 173–183. Copyright 2008 by The University of Chicago. Used by permission.


At the Wave, a photogenic landform on the Utah–Arizona border, modern, southwesterly, sand-carrying winds abrade the Navajo Sandstone. Abundant trains of centimeter-scale, transverse, upwind-facing treads and risers cut sedimentary structures at a high angle. Central to the formation of these erosional steps are crusts produced by microbes lying just beneath exposed sandstone surfaces. Treads and risers are present on the walls of smoothly curved troughs at the Wave, on the walls of nearby circular scour pits, and on bedrock domes found at the center of scour pits. Because of their locations and orientations, the large-scale troughs and scour pits could not have been formed by flowing water or groundwater sapping; treads and risers indicate sculpting by the wind.