Rocks discovered on the surface of the planet undergo a procedure over time contact weathering. Weathering is the breaking down of rock material.

What is a Rock?

A absent is a solid aggregate of mineral materials. Rocks space categorized into three main groups based on chemical composition and also how they room formed: igneous rocks, metamorphic rocks, and sedimentary rocks.

You are watching: Compare and contrast physical and chemical weathering

Some instances of usual rocks space granite, basalt, limestone, and sandstone.


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An selection of rocks through vegetation interspersed. Photo: john J. Mosesso, USGS. Public domain.

What space the two Main types of absent Weathering?

There space two main species of weathering: physical and chemical.


Physical, or mechanical, weathering happens when rock is damaged through the pressure of one more substance on the rock such as ice, to run water, wind, fast heating/cooling, or plant growth.

Chemical weathering occurs when reactions in between rock and also another substance dissolve the rock, causing parts of the to fall away.

Here room some instances of physical and chemical weathering that rocks.

Physical Weather Examples

Physical weathering occurs once rock is broken down v mechanical processes such together wind, water, gravity, freeze-thaw cycles, or the development of roots into rock.

Water Weathering

Water motion is a major force in physical weathering. The persistent crash that waves against rocks causes physical weathering.


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Physical weathering by tide at Arcadia nationwide Park in Maine. Photo: man J. Mosesso, USGS. Public domain.

Freeze-thaw Weathering

When water seeps right into rocks and also freezes, the expands and also causes the absent to crack. Once water transforms native a liquid state to a frozen state, that expands. Liquid water seeps into existing crack in the rock, freezes and then broadens those cracks.

This form of physics weathering is called freeze-thaw.


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Horsetail Falls, Columbia flow Gorge. Photo: USDA, windy domain

Wind Weathering

These mushroom-shaped rock pinnacles in Bryce Canyon, well-known as hoodoos, are developed by wind weathering the sandstone.


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Bryce Canyon is a distinctive sandstone formation in southern Utah. It is residence to a big number that hoodoos, which are oddly shame pillars of absent that created due to different erosion rates for the dolomite the caps them and the sandstone that creates their base. Photo: Alex Demas, USGS. Publicly domain.

Thermal Stress

As rocks warm up (and expand) and then cool (and contract) they deserve to weaken over time and break up right into smaller pieces. This temperature connected weathering is recognized as heat stress.

For example, hot days can cause rockfalls ~ above Yosemite’s granite cliffs.


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A big pinnacle might be seen adjacent to Yosemite Falls. Pinnacles type as the granite is weathering away via ice, water, or tree growth. Photo: Alex Demas, USGS. Publicly domain.

Root Weathering

Roots from plants thrive into rocks, cracking the rocks and also causing weathering. Roots frequently will broaden into currently cracks and cause them to widen.


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Precambrian metamorphic rock wall surface in Lamar Canyon. Yellowstone nationwide Park, Photo: Jim Peaco, NPS, public domain

Chemical Weathering Examples

Chemical weathering have the right to been watched in this photo of Blue basin located in the john Day nationwide Monument in Oregon.

The green shade of the claystone is native by chemistry weathering that a mineral dubbed celadonite.


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Blue Basin, Oregon. Photo: Bonnie Moreland, publicly domain

Chemical and Physical Weathering

Honeycomb weathering is a form of weathering that is believed to have both physical and also chemical weathering components.

Salt weathering is where widening salt crystals break fragments of absent that create an progressively larger hole end time. The pattern that outcomes is well-known as honeycomb weathering.

This absent in Puget Sound, Washington is an example of honeycomb weathering the sandstone.


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Honeycomb weathering the sandstone located on the shores that Puget Sound. Photo: Collin blacksmith , U.S. Geology Survey. Public domain.

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The honeycomb weathering viewed in this picture from Utah.


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Honeycombs, Utah. Photo: Utah geological Survey, public Domain

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