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Weathering profile of volcanic tuff in a road cut after five years of exposure to weathering processes.

Weathering profile of volcanic tuff in a road cut after fifteen years of exposure to weathering processes. Note that rills have developed over time where surface runoff has flowed down the face of the road cut.

Weathering profile of volcanic tuff in a road cut after twenty-five years of exposure to weathering processes. Note that sharp edges are now rounded and the profile is stained red.

Exposed bedrock is subject to both physical and chemical weathering processes. Natural joints within the bedrock facilitate weathering by allowing water to penetrate at depth and exposing a greater surface area of the rock to weathering processes.

Note how the natural joint pattern facilitates weathering by providing an environment conducive to vegetation growth by trapping soil and collecting water.

Jointed bedrock of El Capitan Yosemite Park, California forms from expansion during uplift and unloading of overburden rock.

Note how jointed grainitc bedrock in this New Hampshire quarry permits ground water to reach great depths.

Joints can form during cooling and contraction of lava flows such as columnar basalts shown in the image on the left.

Physical or mechanical weathering includes weathering processes that cause rock or sediment to break down into smaller pieces without changing the chemistry (mineralogy) of the rock.

The image on the left demonstrates how freezing water can exert high stresses as it expands, causing the glass jar to break.

Water trapped in micro-cracks within rock can expand during freezing cycles and exert tremendous stresses to the crack wall and cause rock to break apart.

Freeze-thaw cycles in this alpine environment are responsible for the break-up of this granitic bedrock by frost wedging. Freeze-thaw cycles are also important in subpolar environments where temperature fluctuate around the freezing isotherm (0 C).

Spalling due to range or forest fires can cause the physical break-up of rock through rapid expansion and contraction of hydrous mineral during heating (>900C) and cooling of the rock as the fire passes over a given location.

Root penetration, such as that exhibited by this small lodgepole pine, can exert great pressures within joint cracks as the tree grows and the roots begin to expand.

An Egyptian obelisk survives over 3000 year in the aridity of the Sahara Desert.

Chemical weathering of an Egyptian obelisk after arriving in Central Park, New York.

Chemical weathering processes cause changes in the mineralogy of rock. A marble tombstone engraved in 1970 is subjected to chemical weathering.

Over time the calcium carbonate (CaCO3) will dissolve by solution weathering to form calcium (Ca+2)and bicarbonate (HCO3-1) ions causing the 1820 engraving to disappear.

A granitic tombstone engraved in 1820 is still well-preserved because its constituent minerals are more resistant to chemical weathering processes.

Production of carbonic acid and bicarbonate ions H2O + CO2 H2CO3 H1+ + HCO31-

Hydrolysis reactions involve hydrogen ions (H+1) derived from carbonic or other acids within the environment. Hydrolysis reactions can convert primary feldspars in rock to clay minerals, such as kaolinite. Eocene oxisol, Ione, CA Iron oxide laterite (red) overlies kaolinite clay (white). Formed on alluvium derived from eroded Sierra Nevada volcanics in a tropical climate 38 m.y. ago.

A Horizon

Oxidation Reactions Goethite 4FeO + 2H2O + O2 2FeOOH

B Horizon (goethite yellow precipitate and hematite red precipitate)

Dehydration to form Hematite 2FeOOH Fe2O3+ H2O Modern soil formed in laterite of

Eocene Ione Formation

Rills form from solution weathering of limestone. Compare the depth of rilling on the subsequent two slides.

What factors may account for increasing depth of rilling on the limestone boulders.

If environmental factors are held constant what factor will explain greater weathering?

Terminal zone of melting glacier.

Recessional moraine loop within Chiatovich Valley, CA. How could you infer the relative age of glacial moraines from weathering properties of surface boulders?

Solution weathering of limestone results in hummocky topography (see inset slide). Sinkholes form as acidic groundwater dissolves the underlying carbonate rock. Roofs of caves can collapse when underlying support is removed by solution weathering.

The karst towers in southern China are the result of long-term solution weathering the limestone bedrock by surface and groundwater. The top of the towers provide a minimum estimate of downcutting and lowering of the surrounding landscape.

The formation of stalactites and stalagmites in limestone caves demonstrates that dissolution of calcium carbonate (calcite) is a reversible process.

Environmental factors such as changes in water temperature, acidity, changes in pressure can all influence the solubility of calcium carbonate in solution.

The image was taken from Carlsbad Caverns, New Mexico.

Minerals weather at different rates. The plagioclase crystals stand in relief because they are more resistant to chemical weathering processes than the mafic minerals that are oxidized.

Monuments and hoodoos form because of differential weathering. A resistant cap rock, such as quartzite, protects the underlying weaker rock, in this case, sandtone and shale from weathering and erosion.

Classic examples of differential weathering are prevalent throughout the southwestern United States. These monuments and mesas are capped with resistant quartzite. The weaker sandstone and shale are being eroded by fluvial and mass wasting processes.

Frost-wedging and solution weathering of limestone (Claron Formation) have worked in tandem to create the spectacular amphitheaters of Bryce National Park, Utah.

Water and wind worked in concert to form the arches within oxidized Entrada sandstone in southern Utah.

Spheroidal weathering patterns develop in bedrock that is exposed to weathering processes for extended time periods.

Strong spheroidal weathering pattern is exhibited in granitic bedtock in the Sierra Nevada, California. Core stones are gradually exposed at the surface as mafic minerals are oxidized and the more resistant quartz grains accumulate as grus near the base of the boulder.

Soils can be described as a weathering veneer covering the terrestrial surfaces of the earth. Soils are composed of weathered minerals and decomposed organic Soils can form in residual bedrock. matter. Soil profiles can form in residual bedrock or unconsolidated sediment.

Soil forming processes include: 1. accumulation (illuviation), 2. transformation, 3. Removal (eluviation), and 4. translocation.

A Horizon

B Horizon

C Horizon
(Partially weathered parent material)

Soil forming in granitic bedrock.

Formation of caliche soils in arid climates. Calcium carbonate accumulates in the B (Bk) horizon in arid climates.

A Bwk


A Horizon

B Horizon (goethite and hematite)

Eocene oxisol, Ione, CA

Modern soil formed in laterite of

Eocene Ione Formation

Soil Forming Factors (Clorpt)

1. Climate 2. Organisms 3. Relief 4. Parent material 5. Time

Note that climate plays a major role in the depth of the B horizon (zone of accumulation) or illuvial zone.

Vegetation can play an important role in soil nutrient replacement and pH.


Unweathered parent material (glacial till)

Soil development versus position on a moraine slope. Compare solum depth at crest versus the flank of the moraine

Bedding structure can influence the rate of soil development. Think about how water penetration would differ between horizontal and vertical oriented strata.

Soil development on a 13,000 year old moraine, Snoqualmie Pass, WA.

Soil development on 75,000 and 150,000 year old moraines. As soils age the soil profile becomes thicker, redder, and clay content increases.