How Does Climate Affect Soil Formation?

By Staff WriterLast Updated Mar 31, 2020 6:13:23 PM ET

Climate affects soil formation because it determines the amount of water that is available for processes such as the weathering of minerals, the transportation of minerals and the release of elements. Climate also influences the temperature of the soil, which determines the rate of chemical weathering.


Climates that are warm and moist encourage rapid growth of plants. This leads to a high production of organic matter. The decomposition of organic matter is also accelerated in this type of climate. Climates that are cold and dry have an opposite effect on plant growth and decomposition. Different climates help organic plant material break down using the processes of freezing, thawing, wetting and drying. In the instance of wetting, rainfall causes leaching, which dissolves minerals such as carbonates in the soil. The rain then washes them deeper into the soil.

Other things that affect soil formation include parent material, living organisms, topography and time. Parent material consists of both organic and mineral material where soil formation begins. The material where soil formation begins has a strong effect on the type of soil that is created and the amount of time it takes for the soil to form.

Living organisms consist of native vegetation, fungi, bacteria and burrowing animals that contribute to soil development. Topography, also known as landscape position, causes localized changes in the surrounding moisture and temperature of an area. This includes aspects such as the steepness, shape and slope of an area, which influences the flow of rainwater into or off the soil.