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Atlas of Rocks in Geomorphic Environment

Atlas of Rocks in Geomorphic Environment

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Published by: ebassal on Apr 18, 2011
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08/19/2013

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Feature description:

Intense physical weathering can enhance pre-existing weaknesses (such as fractures or
joints) within boulders and produce split rocks (called Kernsprunge in German). Within
deserts, many 19th

century explorers reported hearing ‘pistol shots’ at night and finding
split rocks the next morning, suggesting that dramatic cracking may occur under intense
heating and cooling regimes. Lightning and fire have also been reported to produce split
rocks (Dorn, 2003). Under experimental conditions such processes have been hard to
reproduce, and moisture may be necessary to encourage splitting. Ollier (1971) also notes
that split rocks can be produced by unloading affecting corestones within a weathered
rock layer. The processes responsible for split rocks may be scale-dependent: larger split
blocks may be produced by unloading, whereas smaller split blocks are likely to be
formed by physical weathering. However, boulder to boulder collisions or impacts may
also cause split rocks, so care needs to be taken in diagnosing the setting of the split rock
before a confident identification of the formative process regime can be made.

Figure W3 Split rock from the Atacama Desert, Chile. Volcanic rocks in the coastal
plain here are affected by intense heating and cooling as well as salt weathering. Image
courtesy of H. Viles.

Chapter 4: Weathering Features

53

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