At low fluid velocities, loose material rolls downstream, staying in contact with the surface. This is called creep or reptation. Here the forces exerted by the fluid on the particle are only enough to roll the particle around the point of contact with the surface.
Once the wind speed reaches a certain critical value, termed the impact or fluid threshold, the drag and lift forces exerted by the fluid are sufficient to lift some particles from the surface. These particles are accelerated by the fluid, and pulled downward by gravity, causing them to travel in roughly ballistic trajectories. If a particle has obtained sufficient speed from the acceleration by the fluid, it can eject, or splash, other particles in saltation, which propagates the process. Depending on the surface, the particle could also disintegrate on impact, or eject much finer sediment from the surface. In air, this process of saltation bombardment creates most of the dust in dust storms. In rivers, this process repeats continually, gradually eroding away the river bed, but also transporting-in fresh material from upstream.
The speed at which the flow can move particles by saltation is given by the
A recent study finds that saltating sand particles induces a static electric field by friction. Saltating sand acquires a negative charge relative to the ground which in turn loosens more sand particles which then begin saltating. This process has been found to double the number of particles predicted by previous theory. This is significant in meteorology because it is primarily the saltation of sand particles which dislodges smaller dust particles into the atmosphere. Dust particles and other aerosols such as soot affect the amount of sunlight received by the atmosphere and earth, and are nuclei for condensation of the water vapour.