Field measurements have been made since 1951 on hundreds of ventifacts abraded by strong, southerly, katabatic winds that blow in winter and summer past Paulatuk, a small western Arctic coastal settlement. Sand is commonly entrained by the strongest winds in winter. The ventifacts, all glacial erratics deposited prior to 12 ka BP, have been gradually rotated by the southerly winds until the long axes of most ventifacts now trend approximately east-west, normal to the katabatic winds. In contrast, pebbles have a slightly preferred north-south orientation, parallel to the katabatic winds. The facets on sandstone and diabase ventifacts are almost planar, but are rounded on granites and hackled on limestones, reflecting the influence of both solution and abrasion. Abrasion is evident on the built structures in Paulatuk, but despite the over 50 years of observation, abrasion of the ventifacts has been virtually undetectable. The extremely slow abrasion rate has been estimated from: observations on two ventifacts from 1951 to 2003; photographic comparisons and observations of 60 ventifacts from 1968 to 2003; optical examination of 14 granite slabs, polished and unpolished, exposed to abrasion from 1967 to 1976; and comparisons of the windward and leeward sides of six large rock caches built with ventifacts probably long before 1900. If the present rates of abrasion are representative of Holocene conditions, ventifact formation has probably taken much of postglacial time. The increase in vegetation cover around many rocks between 1968 and 2003 suggests that the climate has changed in the last three decades.
Canadian Journal of Earth Sciences
Department of Geography and Environmental Studies

Mackay, J.R. (J. Ross), & Burn, C. (2005). A long-term field study (1951-2003) of ventifacts formed by katabatic winds at Paulatuk, western Arctic coast, Canada. Canadian Journal of Earth Sciences, 42(9), 1615–1635. doi:10.1139/e05-061