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Rocks, Resources and Scenery

Geological time is on a different scale from human time

Rock types and the rock cycle

Rock and weathering

Different rocks create contrasting landforms and landscapes

How are granite landscapes used?

How are limestone landscapes used?

The impact of quarrying

Sustainable managements of quarrying

Geological Time

Rocks and Weathering

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What is weathering?

Weathering is the breakdown of rocks in situ (in the place where they are). Rocks are susceptible to weathering. The type of weathering that is most effective is determined by the composition of the rock and the climate. There are three main types of weathering. These are mechanical, chemical and biological weathering.

Mechanical Weathering
Mechanical weathering involves th breakdown of rock by physical processes. The chemical composition of the rock is not changed in anyway. There are two types of mechanical weathering. These are freeze thaw and exfoliation.

Freeze-thaw weathering

Most rocks are very hard. However, a very small amount of water can cause them to break. When water seeps into cracks and freezes it then expands. This powerful force can increase the size of cracks. Over time the repeated freeze-thaw action of water can break rocks apart. Eventually, pieces of rock break off creating scree.

Exfoliation or Onion Skin weathering

This type of erosion is common in warm areas. As the sun shines on rocks during the day it causes them to expand. During the night the rock contracts due to the colder temperature. Over time this continued process causes small pieces of surface rock to flake off.

Chemical Weathering
Chemical weathering causes an alteration to the chemical composition of rock due to a reaction. Water that is slightly acidic can disolve rock. An example of this would be slightly acidic rain changing the chemical composition of limestone to form a limestone pavement. This occurs on the surface and along the joints and bedding planes of limestone. You can also see evidence of this on buidlings made from limestone.

The image below shows limestone that has been chemically weathered. The resulting formation is known as a limestone pavement. You can find out more about limestone scenery here.

Biological Weathering
Biological weathering is the effect of living things. For example as the roots of a tree extend into the ground they can prise rocks apart. Ivy growing up a building can cause bricks to loosen. It also occurs on a much smaller scale through lichen and moss.

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