Lake Michigan Coastal Dunes
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Environment - Niveo-aeolian deposits


Niveo-aeolian deposits (from niveo: snow and aeolian: wind) are accumulations of snow and sand that form in environments where snow and moving sand co-exist in the winter. Snow and sand occur in different proportions within the deposit, revealing characteristics of the processes building the deposit.

  • A layer of pure snow indicates accumulation of snow by direct snowfall or as wind-blown snow.
  • A layer of pure sand indicates sand movement without snow. The thickness of the layer is an indicator of how much sand was transported.
  • A layer of mixed sand and snow indicates that sand and snow were being transported by wind at the same time.

Layers of sand and snow in niveo-aeolian deposit.
Pit in niveo-aeolian deposit shows layers of snow, sand and mixed snow and sand. Major units on ruler are centimeters.
(Hoffmaster State Park in January 2005.)


Niveo-aeolian deposits occur downwind from areas of wind erosion, at locations where sand and snow can accumulate such as the leeslopes of dunes.

Niveo-aeolian deposits are products of sand transport by wind during the winter. They provide evidence for sand movement that can be used to understand winter processes. For example, the size, shape and thickness of sand deposited during a sand-moving event stand out clearly on top of a fresh snow layer. As well, the different layers visible in pits dug into niveo-aeolian deposits can be used to interpret the recent history of aeolian activity.

Niveo-aeolian deposit on dune visibly contrasts with snow deposit.
The niveo-aeolian deposit is easily identified by color in this photo: sand deposited on snow gives the area of niveo-aeolian deposition a darker (dirty) appearance that contrasts with the white of the pure snow in the middle left of the photo. The sand source for the deposit is a blowout on the other side of the dune. (Hoffmaster State Park in January 2005.)

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Last updated 03/23/10.