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Sediments, Weathering, Erosion

Sediments- unconsolidated (loose) fragments of rocks and minerals, debris If most abundant rocks in the Earth are igneous, what minerals should be abundant in sediments?

Igneous rocks vary in their quartz content, but most igneous rocks are quartz-poor (up to 30% at most). But, notice the composition of sandstone w/r/t silica and other elements. Where does the Al, Na, K go?

Sedimentary Rocks
Clastic: klastos-from erosional products. Size, shape, composition give insights into environment. Chemical: precipitation out of solution. Biochemical: biologically mediated.

Recently exposed rock (mineral grains have their original shape and composition) = fresh rock

but, rock that has reacted with air and/or water = weathered rock Weathering = processes that break-up / corrode rock into sediment

Types of Sediments
Terrigenous- derived from weathered preexisting rocks (often outside the basin of deposition)

Allochemical- carbonate grains that formed elsewhere and were transported to basin
Orthochemical- chemical precipitates, formed at site of deposition

Formation of clastic rocks

Exposure to conditions at Earths surface, such as:

Low Temperature Low Pressure Organic Activity Reactions with Water & Atmospheric Gases

Two types of weathering

Physical Physically breaks rocks into smaller pieces (grain sizes) Chemical Chemically breaks bonds and deteriorates rocks (chemical reactions)

Physical Weathering
Breaking of rock into smaller pieces
Coarse Boulder Cobble Pebble > 256 mm 256 64 mm 64 2 mm



2 1/16 mm


Silt Mud

1/6 1/256 mm < 1/256 mm

What aids breaking?

Natural zones of weakness (e.g., bedding) Organisms Frost Mineral Crystallization Heating/Cooling Rivers, glaciers, waves, etc. (energy)

Major Mechanisms
Freeze/thaw- water expands when frozen (10%), most effective in areas with fractures, moist climate, daily temps hover near 0C. Insolation- stress b/c of thermal expansion, common in arid climates where temp fluctuation is 20 to 30C daily Stress Release- confining pressure released, rock expands, cracks form parallel to ground surface (sheets), called exfoliation. Joints aid water flow.

Organic Activity- roots and microorganisms

Freeze/thaw = WEDGING

Salt wedge Root wedge

Insolation = SPALLING





Physical Weathering creates talus

Chemical Weathering
Alteration can take two paths:
Dissolution (ex. halite or calcite)

Alteration to new minerals (ex. feldspar or micas alter to clays). Finer materials are formed and are usually removed from the system.

Chemical Weathering Dissolution

Solid mineral + acid or water --> ions in solution Solubility can be partial or complete.

Ionic bonds in halite break when in water.

-holes in limestone as a result of dissolution
CaCO3 + H2CO3 --> Ca2+ + 2HCO3-

How does water become acidic?

Hydration / Dehydration =
Solid mineral + water = new hydrated mineral (or reverse)
Dehydration of gypsum to anhydrite
CaSO42H2O --> CaSO4 + 2H2O

Hydration of hematite to limonite Fe2O3 + 3H2O --> 2Fe(OH)3

Defined as the replacement of cations by H+, derived from water or acid. Silicate minerals weather by hydrolysis.

Dark, mafic minerals (olivine) dissolve completely, but lighter silicates (feldspars) do not.

Hydrolysis =
Hydrogen ion + minerals w/ mobile cations = dissolved (?) mineral with H+ replacing the cations put into solution
CO2 + H2O =

KAlSi3O8 + H+ --> Al2Si2O5(OH)4 + K+ + H4SiO2 (feldspar) (acid) (kaolinite) (ion) Mg2SiO4 + 4H+ --> 2Mg2+ + H4SiO4 (olivine) (ions)

Oxidation / Reduction =
a reaction where an element loses/gains eOxidation = losing electrons Reduction = gaining electrons

Best oxidizing agent is atmospheric oxygen.

Oxidation / Reduction
Common examples include combining a metal with O2 , as w/ formation of rust (ferrous iron) (ferric iron) (Fe2+)SiO3 + O2 + 2H2O = (Fe3+)OH3 + H4SiO4 (pyroxene)

2+ Ferrous


3+ Ferric



Ion Exchange
Reaction between ions in solution and ions held in a mineral (often in clays)
E.g., exchange of Na+ for Ca+

Usually cation exchange, but anions can exchange too.

Bonding of metal ions to organic substances to form organic molecules Removes metals from minerals, puts them into solution (can then be removed) E.g., moss excretes organic chelating agents and hastens chemical weathering

What controls weathering?

Higher temps Moisture Latitude

Abundance of H+ ions
Controlled by pH (activity of H+ ions) pH = -log10[H+] Acids have excess H+ (low pH), and are agents for hydrolysis and dissolution; natural waters are pH 4 to 9.

What controls weathering?

Availability of free oxygen
Eh (redox potential) The higher the magnitude the more likely an ion or atom will be oxidized (+) or reduced (-).
Oxidation is likely in rainwater, streams, groundwater, and surface oceans.

Reduction occurs in stagnant swamps and in the deep ocean.

What controls weathering?

Source composition- soluble? bedded?
Fine-grained rocks = decompose chemically b/c of high surface area High temp minerals = decompose readily at surface b/c of distance from formation temp* Foliated or jointed rocks = weather faster b/c of infiltration of water/gases

*Remember mineral stability?

Least stable (rapid weathering)

Most stable (slow weathering)

Stability & Resistance

Minerals weather faster with: 1. weaker internal structures (few bonds) 2. reactive ions (Fe, Mg, Na, K, and Al)
* Quartz (SiO2) consists of a 3-D Si-O network (strong bonds in all directions), lacks above mentioned ions and thus is extremely stable

What affects weathering of rock?

If material is moving, it will chemically weather less

Soil Cover
If covered, reactions w/ atmosphere may not occur Water ponded below surface can aid in certain reactions Drainage = removal of rxn products --> more rxns

Length of Exposure

Physical / Chemical weathering work together

Greater the surface area faster the weathering

Chemical weathering speeds up physical weathering

Differential Weathering Rates

Differential weathering of sedimentary rocks

(weaker shale layers weather back; more resistant sandstone layers stick out)

Effects of Weathering
With increased weathering: Strength decreases Density decreases Water content increases Porosity increases Important to investigate the state of weathering of the rock beneath where youd like to build