Snow White Sands

June 15, 2007


Provided and copyright by: Matthew Hesse
Summary author: Matthew Hesse

The white as snow sands shown above are composed of water-soluble gypsum crystals that form at Lake Lucero in the Tularosa Basin of southern New Mexico. Wind and time erode these crystals to create dunes, some of which are in excess of 30 ft (9 m) in height and can advance at a rate of 30 ft (9 m) per year. Some plants in front of an oncoming dune can grow fast enough to avoid being buried. Covering an area of 275 sq mi (712 sq km) these dunes are home to unique plant and animal life, including the White Sands Prairie Lizard, which has evolved a white coloration to match its surroundings. Photo taken from the eastern dune field in White Sands National Monument on September 10, 2004. See also the Earth Science Picture of the Day for June 14, 2006. [Revised November 2017]

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