Photographer Joshua Nowicki created a sensation across the Internet when he recently posted a photo of tiny sand towers, the biggest only about 12 inches high, that he found at Silver Beach County Park in St. Joseph, Mich., along the shoreline of Lake Michigan. (Nowicki has taken some other really cool pictures there, including a dramatic photo of a frozen lighthouse that now graces the city's official website.)
The tiny towers apparently were created by the combination of wind, water and low temperatures, which combined to carve the frozen layers of sand in much the same fashion that a river carves a canyon, Mihai Andrei writes at ZME Science.
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The wind breaks down the cohesion of soil particles and detaches and moves some of them, creating the shapes. Because the towers were so small, they melted away quickly, and most were already gone by the time that Nowicki tried to take more pictures of them, according to Andrei.
But wind erosion also carves bigger, longer-lasting sculptures on frozen beaches. Last March, a blogger who calls herself Fossillady shot these amazing pictures of intricate formations and what look like Georgia red stone cliffs, carved by the wind into the frozen sand at Pier Cove Creek in southwest Michigan.
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Wind, of course, also helps to create sand dunes. Michigan is home to the biggest dune system in the world that's associated with a freshwater lake, as described in this article by Michigan State University geography professor Randall Schaetzl. The dunes provide an important habitat for plants and animals.