When wind and water reshape the world

Slide show: We look at the bizarre and beautiful effects of erosion, from American canyons to the cliffs of Spain

By Megan Cytron

Published April 24, 2011 1:01PM (EDT)

Always finding the path of least resistance, the force of water in combination with gravity is responsible for many of the Earth's most striking landscapes. Erosion exposes the vastness of geological time. Apart from looking up at the stars, there's nothing quite like standing at the bottom of a canyon looking into layer upon layer of rock to drive home the notion of how old the Earth is. What's surprising is how quickly erosion can happen, sometimes in a matter of a hundred years -- or even in a day if a dam breaks or a tidal wave hits. Even the 17 million years that it took the Colorado River to embed itself into the rock and form the Grand Canyon seems like the blink of an eye when compared to the 2 billion years of strata that it reveals.

Sculptors and artists are forever trying to re-create the bizarre, curvaceous erosional landforms that wind and water carve into the Earth and that geologists dub with whimsical names like hoodoos, hogbacks, fairy chimneys, mushroom rocks and cirques. While the adjective "otherworldly" seems to get attached to these kinds of places, they are actually quite common on our water-covered planet. Here are a few of our favorites -- you can find more at http://www.trazzler.com/tags/erosion.

Megan Cytron

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