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Done by: Chow Hui Xuan, Caitlan Miew, Koh Ling Ying
Type of physical/mechanical weathering
Also known as:
- Solar/Thermal Expansion and Contraction, weathering through
Heating and Cooling, Exfoliation weathering
Refers to the disintegration of rocks caused by
expansion and contraction through
solar/thermal heating and cooling
Occurs during the daily cycle of heating (in the
day) and cooling (at night)
Processes involved
As rock is a poor conductor of heat, the effects of diurnal
heating are confined to the surface layers and not transmitted
freely through the rock
With the concentration of heat in the upper layers, a sharp
thermal gradient soon develops and the surface of the rock
tends to expand more than the rock at depth
This should lead to the formation of stresses within the rock
and if such stresses exceed a certain critical amount, sheet
joints parallel to the surface will develop leading subsequently
to exfoliation
The process of exfoliation is somewhat similar to peeling layers
from an onion it involves the detachment of rocks in concentric
slabs from the underlying rock mass, leaving behind successively
smaller spheroidal bodies.
The layers thus developed tends to be thin since expansion
and contraction are limited to the surface of the rock
Diurnal temperature range
The larger the diurnal temperature range, the more
effective insolation weathering is.
the greater the difference in temperature, the greater the
expansion and contraction
Most common cause of insolation weathering
Takes place slowly, over periods of hours
e.g. in a desert
Fires can also cause insolation weathering
It rarely happens, but can cause very rapid expansion due
to the high heat
e.g. Forest fires

Colour of rock
The darker coloured the rock, the more effective
insolation weathering is.
dark coloured rocks tend to expand and contract more
due to its higher coefficient of expansion, or faster
absorption of heat
differential expansion can occur between minerals in
some rocks which are made of light and dark-coloured
e.g. Within rocks such as granite, colour differences
in mineral crystals have been thought to cause them
to expand and contract at different rates, encouraging
disintegration into individual grains

Exfoliation domes
Large, rounded landforms developed in
massive rock, such as granite, by
exfoliation. These are formed as a result of
pressure release and unloading (sheeting)
where layers of rocks have peeled away,
leaving behind the rounded rock surface.
Landforms (continued)
Stone Mountain in Georgia
Landforms (continued)
Half Dome in Yasemite
Hot deserts
Lack of cloud cover results in more pronounced
differences between peak daytime and nighttime
temperatures, possibly ranging from 30-50
degrees Celsius
Bushfires/ Forest fires
During a forest fire, rocks may heat very rapidly,
especially near the surface, because they
conduct heat so poorly. The heated surface layer
expands more rapidly than the interior and thin
sheets paralleling the rock surface becomes

Insolation weathering appears to be more
effective in theory than in reality
As mentioned, rocks are bad conductors of heat
and the effect of heating can only penetrate a few
millimeters into the rock. This means that
exfoliation can only take place on a very small
and shallow scale.
Miscellaneous (continued)
Insolation weather has not been successfully
reproduced in the laboratory in the absence of water
vapour, suggesting that alternate heating and cooling
alone is not sufficient.
Suggests that moisture contributes to the quantity of
disintegration experienced
Fog may also provided enough water to enhance the
process of insolation. In the Namib coastal desert, there
may be fog on up to 100 occasions in a year, and this
water may be sufficient to weaken some mineral in the
rock enough to allow disintegration through a combination
of chemical and mechanical processes
Thermal expansion and contraction may be more
significant on the Moon, where extreme temperature
changes occur quickly.
~The End~
Thank You!