Rocks found on the surface of the earth undergo a procedure over time call weathering. Weathering is the breaking down of rock material.

What is a Rock?

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

You are watching: How are physical and chemical weathering different

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


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An selection of rocks through vegetation interspersed. Photo: man J. Mosesso, USGS. Publicly domain.

What room the two Main varieties of rock Weathering?

There are two main types of weathering: physical and also chemical.


Physical, or mechanical, weathering happens as soon as rock is broken through the force of an additional substance on the rock such together ice, running water, wind, rapid heating/cooling, or tree growth.

Chemical weathering occurs as soon as reactions between rock and also another substance dissolve the rock, bring about parts of that to autumn away.

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

Physical Weather Examples

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

Water Weathering

Water movement is a significant force in physics weathering. The persistent crash that waves versus rocks causes physical weathering.


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

Freeze-thaw Weathering

When water seeps into rocks and freezes, it expands and causes the absent to crack. As soon as water transforms native a fluid state to a frozen state, it expands. Liquid water seeps right into existing crack in the rock, freezes and also then increases those cracks.

This kind of physical weathering is called freeze-thaw.


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

Wind Weathering

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


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Bryce Canyon is a unique sandstone development in southern Utah. It is residence to a large number the hoodoos, which space oddly shame pillars of rock that created due to various erosion rates for the dolomite the caps them and the sandstone that forms their base. Photo: Alex Demas, USGS. Publicly domain.

Thermal Stress

As rocks warmth up (and expand) and also then cool (and contract) they have the right to weaken over time and break up right into smaller pieces. This temperature related weathering is known as heat stress.

For example, hot days can create rockfalls top top Yosemite’s granite cliffs.


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A huge pinnacle might be seen nearby to Yosemite Falls. Pinnacles kind as the granite is weathered away via ice, water, or plant growth. Photo: Alex Demas, USGS. Public domain.

Root Weathering

Roots indigenous plants prosper into rocks, cracked the rocks and causing weathering. Roots generally will increase into existing cracks and cause them come widen.


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Precambrian metamorphic rock wall in Lamar Canyon. Yellowstone national Park, Photo: Jim Peaco, NPS, windy domain

Chemical Weathering Examples

Chemical weathering have the right to been seen in this photograph of Blue basin located in the john Day national Monument in Oregon.

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


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

Chemical and Physical Weathering

Honeycomb weathering is a kind of weathering the is thought to have both physical and also chemical weathering components.

Salt weathering is where broadening salt crystals break pieces of rock that develop an significantly larger hole over time. The pattern that outcomes is recognized as honeycomb weathering.

This rock in Puget Sound, Washington is an instance of honeycomb weathering that sandstone.


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

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The honeycomb weathering seen in this photograph from Utah.


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Honeycombs, Utah. Photo: Utah geology Survey, windy Domain

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