Q:

What is the process that breaks down rocks?

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Quick Answer

The process in nature that breaks down rocks is called physical weathering. Physical forces such as abrasion, frost action, salt crystal growth, thawing, freezing and temperature fluctuation weaken rocks and cause them to crack and disintegrate over time. Fluctuations in temperature over time can cause rocks to break as a result of constant stress from contraction and expansion.

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Full Answer

The surface of a rock can break down from constant friction caused by ice, water and wind. Constant frost exposure causes rocks to break down because the melting ice becomes trapped inside cracks in the rock and then expands when freezing, resulting in significant outward pressure. Rocks can also fall apart because of salt crystal growth, which is a process that takes place when a rock is exposed to groundwater that seeps into its empty spaces and pores.

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Related Questions

  • Q:

    What is abrasion in physical weathering?

    A:

    In physical or mechanical weathering, abrasion occurs when moving particle sediments abrade the surface of exposed rocks. As these particles rub against exposed rocks, it leads to wearing away of the rocks through friction. The particle sediments, such as smaller rocks, are carried through media that includes water, ice and wind.

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  • Q:

    How does climate affect the rate of weathering?

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    Climate affects the rate of weathering in several ways: humidity, physical erosion and temperature all impact the rate at which rocks and earthen materials wear and fade. Climate influences weathering over short and longer periods of time. This weathering takes place naturally, through the process of physical weathering, and in the form of chemical weathering, which involves rain, snow and other precipitation with synthetic compounds.

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  • Q:

    What is biological weathering?

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    Biological weathering is the effect that living organisms, such as plants and animals, have on rocks and other inanimate objects. This phenomena happens due to the molecular breakdown of minerals in the rock. When biological weathering occurs, the living organism breaks down the rock or other nonliving object through either mechanical or chemical erosion or the use of both.

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  • Q:

    What does "physical weathering" mean?

    A:

    Physical weathering, also called mechanical weathering, refers to the process of breaking rocks apart while retaining their chemical composition, according to the American Geosciences Institute. It means that rocks slowly wear away due to physical changes, such as temperature changes, freezing and thawing, wind, rain and waves, explains the BBC.

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