Rain splash of dry sand revealed by high-speed imaging and sticky paper splash targets

David Jon Furbish, Katherine K. Hammer, Mark Schmeeckle, Miriam N. Borosund, Simon Marius Mudd

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

115 Scopus citations


Rain splash transport of sediment on a sloping surface arises from a downslope drift of grains displaced ballistically by raindrop impacts. We use high-speed imaging of drop impacts on dry sand to describe the drop-to-grain momentum transfer as this varies with drop size and grain size and to clarify ingredients of downslope grain drift. The "splash" of many grains involves ejection of surface grains accelerated by grain-to-grain collisions ahead of the radially spreading front of a drop as it deforms into a saucer shape during impact. For a given sand size, splash distances are similar for different drop sizes, but the number of displaced grains increases with drop size in proportion to the momentum of the drop not infiltrated within the first millisecond of impact. We present a theoretical formulation for grain ejection which assumes that the proportion of ejected grains within any small azimuthal angular interval dθ about the center of impact is proportional to the momentum density of the spreading drop within dθ and that the momentum of ejected grains at angle θ is, on average, proportional to the momentum of the spreading drop at θ. This formulation, consistent with observed splash distances, suggests that downslope grain transport involves an asymmetry in both quantity and distance: more grains move downslope than upslope with increasing surface slope, and, on average, grains move farther downslope. This latter effect is primarily due to the radial variation in the surface-parallel momentum of the spreading drop. Surface-parallel transport increases approximately linearly with slope.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberF01001
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Earth Surface
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 24 2007

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Earth-Surface Processes
  • Geophysics


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