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Sediment is the small pieces of material that can be easily transported by moving air or water.  This is often some kind of rock or mineral that has weathered and eroded extensively. Sand is probably the most common type to most people.

An image of an hourglass sitting on a sandy beach. All that sand is sediment.

The sand in and around the hourglass is all sediment.

How Does it form?

This material forms when rocks and minerals break down over time. There are many types of weathering and erosion that can assist in this process. Two of the more common forms are wind and water as they break down and erode rocks. 

Wind and water aren’t the only actors here. Glaciers can freeze rock, causing cracks, and erode it elsewhere as the ice moves or melts. This can take thousands of years! Material deposited by a glacier is also known as moraine.

An image of a glacier.

Glaciers move very slowly. They might crush up the rocks around them into sediment.

Where can you find sediment?

You can find it all over the Earth! In order to be sediment, the tiny particles must be deposited somewhere. This means that you can find it in all sorts of places. Sand is the most common type and it is all over beaches, oceans, and deserts! Dunes are just piles and piles of sand.
 An image of sand sediment underwater.

Sedimentary Rock

An important fact about this debris is that it can compress into sedimentary rock. This often happens when a pile of sand or other material is at the bottom of a valley or lake. Over time, things accumulate on top of it. This compacts the sediment, kind of like a snowball. Given enough pressure and time, it will turn into sedimentary rock.
Notably, if there are fossils in it, you can find them preserved after it hardens. By digging into the resulting rock and finding these fossils, we can find out more about ancient animals like the dinosaurs.

Other Great Resources:

Sediment and Suspended Sediment – US Geological Survey: https://geology.com/usgs/debris-flow-hazards/

Sediment – National Geographic: https://www.nationalgeographic.org/encyclopedia/sediment/

(Video) What is Sediment? – Audiopedia: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QPz__LXSOuU

Written by: Jesus Cervantes


Sedimentary Rocks