Difference between chemical & physical weathering

Updated April 11, 2017

Weathering is a process in which rocks and minerals are broken down into smaller specimens or changed into a new material. There are two types of weathering, physical and chemical, but they often work together.

Definition of Physical Weathering

Physical weathering, also called mechanical weathering, is the process of breaking rock down into smaller pieces of rock with the same physical properties.

Types of Physical Weathering

Physical weathering can occur a number of ways. Rocks can be broken apart by other material hitting them, plants growing in cracks, and water freezing in the cracks, which causes the rock to break apart.

Definition of Chemical Weathering

Chemical weathering is a process that changes a rock into another rock with different chemical properties.

Types of Chemical Weathering

Examples of chemical weathering include oxidation (rusting), hydrolysis and hydration. These processes involve a chemical reaction with elements in the environment and produce a rock with new mineral composition.

Effects of Weathering

Weathering is a slow process that shapes the entire surface of the Earth. Both chemical and physical weathering work to erode rocks and mountains, create sand and move minerals to new locations in which they can be transformed into sedimentary rocks.

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About the Author

Risa Edwards is a librarian who works for a small private university. She has a degree in geology and library science, but is interested in topics from across many disciplines. Edwards enjoys using her research skills to help others as well as continuing to broaden her own knowledge.