On a planet I've been working on that has extreme wind conditions, coastal zephyrs cross through mountains and get split into stream-like avenues that carve deep gouges in the rainshadowed valley beyond. However due to differences in thermals (The valley floor, which would in this case be tableland by comparison has intense heat while the canyons maintain a relatively self-regulated chill) lock the wind to the canyon interior while still constantly flowing. I have speculated that this causes it to appear, if one were to gaze from the tableland into the canyon, that the wind were flowing almost like a dusty river (erosion from the mountains turns into constant dust clouds in the canyon. Important for canyon ecology.)

If this does not hold up, how could I make it work better? Those canyons stretch for 60 miles in places and run through the land mostly straight on in the direction of the wind flow, and the wind is exceeding 200 mph at the "headwaters" with pea-sized debris.

Helpful information (but seriously not the focus of the question, I will fine tweak this as I need) the planet is Tidally-Locked (1:1 orbital, eccentricity of 0.03) with a 30% liquid water surface (and a 50% frozen water surface) in roughly the goldilocks zone. Most water contained in a single sea that takes up most of the sun-facing hemisphere with a second smaller ocean at the perihelion. Large interior desert that's mostly flat due to winds. Constant storm at the perihelion and in the twilight zone.

  • $\begingroup$ The main problem I see is that wind tends to slow down over land. $\endgroup$
    – Daniel B
    Commented Dec 2, 2022 at 20:38

1 Answer 1


There are some problems in what you describe:

  1. water is about 1000 times more dense than air, so in a first approximation air is 1000 times less effective in eroding stones. Carrying sand might help improving erosion.
  2. unlike a river, which flows only at the bottom of the proto-valley, continuously carving into into a canyon, wind would blow everywhere, resulting in a more uniform erosion. You would therefore end up with a sort of flattened landscape, not a series of canyons. You might mitigate this by having a geology made up of hard materials (like granite) mixed with softer ones, like sandstone. However it would take quite some handwaving to have the right sequences to get the valleys you want.
  • $\begingroup$ I mentioned pea-sized debris. The wind is full of it. I also mentioned that heat differentials keeps the cold, windy air lower and rolling mostly underneath the hotter air of the surface. I think that the way the canyons form in the first place is that softer materials were eroded away at the mountains while harder material remains, funneling it into corridors where the wind mostly maintains the same direction of flow. It would probably scrape the sides but I am thinking it is more likely to carve out the canyon deeper as it goes, no? $\endgroup$
    – Quinn
    Commented Dec 1, 2022 at 22:40
  • $\begingroup$ The problem is that air picks up dust and debris only when that is available to be picked up. After the first few blasts, all the available debris could be picked up already. If the mountains are built from granite, then those mountains would produce more debris when flaking off chunks - every decade or so. Most of the time, the wind will howl past the rocks with no effect. $\endgroup$
    – David R
    Commented Dec 3, 2022 at 15:33
  • $\begingroup$ I have elected to decide that flash flooding from the storm surge generated by the wind causes the canyons to form, then, a la a Slot Canyon. With that I need to figure out how to keep the wind from slowing down as it moves through the canyons; it doesn't need to be so deadly as 200 mph winds further inland. $\endgroup$
    – Quinn
    Commented Dec 3, 2022 at 19:13

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