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

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    How does freeze-thaw weathering break up rocks?

    A:

    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 is biological weathering?

    A:

    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:

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

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    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 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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