What is freeze-thaw weathering?

Written by cheryl l. krueger
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What is freeze-thaw weathering?
Physical weathering (Image by Flickr.com, courtesy of Hamed Saber)

Freeze-thaw weathering occurs in both mountain and hot desert areas. The freeze-thaw process causes the breakdown of rock material.


Freeze-thaw begins when water enters the cracks in bare rock. During night freezes, the frozen water expands against the rock. When temperatures rise, the ice melts and this causes more room for new water to enter. Over time, the expansion and contraction of water breaks the rock

What is freeze-thaw weathering?
Power of water (Image by Flickr.com, courtesy of Sergio Tudela Romero)

Water Force

Water in its liquid state has 10 perecent less volume than its frozen state.The power of freezing and thawing water literally can move mountains.

What is freeze-thaw weathering?
Hot days, cold nights (Image by Flickr.com, courtesy of Kevin Dooley)

Sand from Rock

Rain in warm temperatures fills rock spaces. Cold night freezes expand the water. Breakdown begins.

What is freeze-thaw weathering?
Importance of time (Image by Flickr.com, courtesy of John Morgan)

Power of Time

Repeated cycles of freeze-thaw over long periods of time cause the change from mountain to sand material.

What is freeze-thaw weathering?
Freeze-thaw results (Image by Flickr.com, courtesy of Sherrie Thai)

Breakdown of Matter

Freeze-thaw results are identified by clean and straight breaks in rock.

What is freeze-thaw weathering?
Large to small (Image by Flickr.com, courtesy of Steve Jurvetson)


Rocks, caves, sand, potholes and scree (piles of broken rock) are results of the freeze-thaw process

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