notes-4 - D1) Weathering and Erosion As the term implies,...

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D1) Weathering and Erosion As the term implies, weathering takes place when a rock is exposed to the "weather", in other words to the forces and conditions that exist at the earth's surface. Most rocks are formed at some depth within the crust, the only exceptions being volcanic rocks. In order for weathering to take place the rock must first be exposed at surface, meaning that any overlying rock must first be weathered away. A rock that is buried beneath other rock cannot be weathered to any extent. Intrusive igneous rocks form where magma bodies cool at depths of several hundreds of metres to several tens of kilometres. In most cases sediments are turned into sedimentary rocks only when they are buried by other sediments to depths in excess of several hundreds of metres, and most metamorphic rocks are formed at depths of thousands of metres. These rocks are uplifted through various processes of mountain building most of which are related to plate tectonics and once the overlying material has been eroded away and the rock is exposed as outcrop, weathering can begin (see the rock cycle diagram in the Igneous Rocks notes). Both mechanical and chemical processes are important to weathering, and in most cases they act together to reduce solid rocks to fine-grained sediments and dissolved substances. Mechanical weathering provides fresh surfaces for attack by chemical processes, and chemical weathering weakens the rock so that it is more susceptible to mechanical weathering. The important agents of mechanical weathering are as follows: a) a decrease in pressure that results from removal of overlying rock b) freezing and thawing of water in cracks in the rock c) formation of salt crystals within the rock, and d) plant roots and burrowing animals When a mass of rock is exposed by weathering and by removal of the overlying rock there is a decrease in the confining pressure on the rock, and a slight expansion of the rock volume. This unloading promotes cracking of the rock known as exfoliation - and the development of cracks leads to other kinds of weathering [see page 127]. Expansion and exfoliation have affected this granite adjacent to the Coquihalla Highway. Erosion in this area is also greatly enhanced by freezing and thawing. Frost wedging is the process by which the water seeps into cracks in a rock, expands on freezing, and thus enlarges the cracks
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Vancouver Island University Geology 111 Discovering Planet Earth Steven Earle 2010 2 [Figure 5.3]. The effectiveness of frost wedging is related to the frequency of freezing and thawing. Frost wedging is most effective in a climate like ours. In warm areas where freezing is infrequent, in very cold areas where thawing is infrequent, or in very dry areas, where there is little water to seep into cracks, the role of frost wedging is limited. When salty water seeps into rocks, and then the water is evaporated on a hot day, salt crystals grow
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This note was uploaded on 01/13/2012 for the course GLG 111 taught by Professor Staff during the Fall '11 term at Virginia Intermont.

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notes-4 - D1) Weathering and Erosion As the term implies,...

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