Q:

What are some causes of physical weathering?

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Quick Answer

A few causes of physical weathering, also known as mechanical weathering, are swiftly moving water, ice and growing plants. Physical weathering refers to the process that breaks rock structures apart but does not change their chemical composition.

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Full Answer

When water moves through rocks quickly, it can cause them to break apart and fall onto other areas. When these rocks fall, they may chip, crack and break as they collide with one another and other structures in the environment. When water in a crevice or hole freezes, it expands. The resulting pressure causes cracks in a structure and is another source of weathering. The growing roots of a plant exert pressure on rock structures, causing them to crack and fall apart.

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  • Q:

    How is a plant or animal an agent of mechanical weathering?

    A:

    Plants and animals become agents of mechanical weathering when their growth, activities or movements expose rocks to the weathering actions of wind, rain and ice. The roots of plants, particularly large trees, can shift the soil and lift or crack rocks that block their paths. Animals often dig tunnels that cause the same effects, but their burrowing, foraging and den-making activities can also cause rocks to become exposed.

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  • Q:

    What is frost wedging?

    A:

    Frost wedging is a type of mechanical weathering caused by frost and ice. Water expands when it freezes, and repeated cycles of freezing and thawing slowly weaken the structural integrity of porous and cracked rocks. Over time, frost wedging enlarges tiny cracks into huge fissures. The fissures eventually split the rock completely.

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  • Q:

    How does freeze-thaw weathering break up rocks?

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    Freeze-thaw weathering is a form of physical or mechanical weathering that induces stress on rocks when water repeatedly seeps into cracks, freezes and expands, eventually causing the rock to break apart. This type of weathering is largely driven by the intensity and frequency of freeze-thaw cycles and the structural properties of the rocks subject to weathering.

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  • Q:

    What causes a cliff to collapse?

    A:

    Cliffs collapse for a number of reasons, one of the most common being the effects of weathering, but there other factors as well, such as water crashing against the cliff face, what the cliff is made out of and the climate of the area. These factors can also work in conjunction to cause a cliff to collapse.

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