Weathering refers to the gradual disintegration of rocks and minerals at Earth’s surface; erosion refers to their movement to other locations – for instance when sediment flows down rivers.
Water plays an essential role in both mechanical and chemical weathering processes, both mechanically and chemically. For instance, liquid water seeping into rock cracks can then freeze over time, expanding as it does so and cracking apart chunks of stone from within them.
Wind can be an incredibly effective erosion force. It can quickly scratch away at rocks like sandpaper, carrying away fragments of sediment from their surfaces like tiny grains of sand. Wind also blows sand from place to place creating towering dunes like those found in China’s Badain Jaran section of Gobi Desert or create ventifacts found at Scotts Bluff National Monument in the United States.
Weathering, erosion and deposition occur on a smaller scale than erosion caused by glaciers, rivers or ocean waves; nevertheless they remain an integral component of geological processes. Water can erode rocks through physical means such as freezing and thawing or chemical processes such as dissolution and oxidation, then wash away soil particles to be deposited elsewhere – whether nearby such as beaches or farther afield like river valleys.
Water’s power can quickly break down rocks and soil, whether through chemical weathering – softening and dissolving rock minerals – or mechanical weathering, physically breaking apart rocks into smaller pieces. In addition, changing pressure on rock surfaces makes them more prone to breaking apart through exfoliation processes.
Most forms of erosion, however, involve physical contact between rocks – such as when they brush against each other – causing weathering that erodes beaches, seaside cliffs and canyon walls into mountains. Water and wind can carry this material faraway to become transport or denudation erosion.
Water can also erode rocks to smooth their surfaces and leave behind “mushroom rocks.” Furthermore, its force can etch patterns onto them through erosion or by pushing salt crystals into cracks and crevices through haloclasty – two processes known as haloclasty.
Water, wind, glaciers (glaciers), and gravity are among the many forces which act to erode and deposit rocks and minerals on Earth’s surface. They create breathtaking landforms.
Rainwater seeps into cracks in rocks and then freezes, working like ice to split apart the rock surface – this process is known as mechanical weathering. Plants may also contribute to mechanical weathering by growing into these cracks over time – this phenomenon is called physical weathering.
Glaciers erode rock by plucking and abrasion, depositing sediment as they melt, leaving drumlins, kettle lakes, and eskers as remnants behind. Discover their formation while comparing continental to alpine glaciers.
Erosion occurs through the conversion of potential energy to kinetic energy. For instance, if you consistently nudged your notebook toward the edge of your desk it will eventually fall off. Gravity also works in this regard by sending loose rock particles cascading down steep hillsides; when they reach lower levels they are deposited as soil in different locations – creating fertile environments where plants, fungi and bacteria thrive together to produce fertile soils.
Erosion occurs through mechanical forces (water, wind and glaciers), or chemical ones (frost wedging – where water seeps into cracks in rocks before freezing and expanding), both mechanically (water flowing over rocks) or chemically. Some forms of erosion are quick while others take thousands of years – consider how the Grand Canyon was carved by slow but continuous flow of Colorado River over millions of years; other examples of rapid erosion include landslides and mushroom rocks – thin towers of weathered limestone that form quickly once in their formation.