Publication Date


Advisor(s) - Committee Chair

Mark Lowry, Christopher Groves, Stuart Foster, Glen Conner


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Degree Program

Department of Geography and Geology

Degree Type

Master of Science


The purpose of this research is to analyze the effects of military maneuvers on soil structure breakdown and how this contributes to the effects of wind erosion. The National Training Center (NTC) located at Fort Irwin, California, is the U.S. Army’s desert warfare training facility. Due to state and federal regulations, the NTC must assess the damage that military maneuvers inflict on the desert environment and develop management techniques to alleviate some of the damage, including the soil structure breakdown due to the heavy vehicle traffic which contributes to soil erosion caused by wind.

In order to compare the correlation of dust production and vehicle traffic an experiment was constructed to see the direct effects of vehicle traffic on soil particle distribution. The experiment consisted finding a piece of undisturbed ground that represented the soil conditions of the training areas and running a wheeled and track vehicle (M998 HMMWV and a M34 Sheridan Light Tank) over the area while taking periodic surface soil samples. A nested dry soil sieve analysis was conducted for each soil sample. Wind transport modeling suggests that under prevailing wind conditions at the NTC, sediment particles up to about .05 cm in diameter were entrained. Thus a relationship was developed between the number of vehicle passes and the percent weight of material of each soil sample that is less than .05 cm in diameter.

A logarithmic model provided the closest representation of the relationship between number of vehicle passes and percent of material less than .05 cm in diameter, and was significant at 95% confidence level. Results also indicate that the tank reduces the basic physical characteristics of the soil more quickly compacts the soil more than the HMMWV.

These results suggest that the NTC is limited in its ability to control the soil structure breakdown that increases the amount of soil that is eroded by the wind. The fact that the soil breaks down so quickly illustrates that in the training areas, the ability to control the amount of generated dust is difficult. The amount of dust generated is far greater when vehicles are moving over the terrain than when the soil is left alone. When vehicles move over the terrain, soil is picked up and thrown into the air by the tracks and wheels, causing the finer material to be exposed to wind and carried into the atmosphere. When vehicles are no longer present, the effects of wind are not as great. A possible solution to these problems would be to limit the training to only a certain number of areas and to water down the areas after maneuvers have occurred so that a crust develops which would limit the effects of wind.


Earth Sciences | Geography | Geology | Military and Veterans Studies | Physical Sciences and Mathematics | Soil Science