Landforms formed by physical weathering

Written by glenn heath
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Landforms formed by physical weathering
Gravel, the result of physical weathering processes (gravel image by Alison Bowden from Fotolia.com)

Physical weathering processes can, over time, produce many and varied types of landforms. The landforms produced by physical weathering can be as dramatic as a lone butte in the desert or as subtle as a tree growing through a sidewalk.

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Weathering

Weathering is the natural process whereby rocks are broken down into smaller particles in place, more or less without movement. The two primary types of weathering are chemical and physical. In chemical weathering, the chemical nature of the weathered material changes, whereas in physical weathering, the chemical nature of the weathered material is unchanged.

Landforms formed by physical weathering
Monument Valley Butte, a landform created by physical weathering (Moument valley butte image by csourav from Fotolia.com)

Buttes and Mesas

Buttes and mesas are examples of landforms created by physical weathering. The two landforms actually are created by a similar process; the term "mesa" is used for large examples, and "butte" is used for smaller ones. Mesas and buttes form when the surface material of a hill or mountain is resistant to physical weathering but underlying materials are not, gradually creating an isolated, flat-topped promontory.

Landforms formed by physical weathering
Mesas, created by the same weathering process as buttes (Wind-swpt Heights image by Carol Hyman from Fotolia.com)

Natural Arches or Natural Bridges

Natural arches, or natural bridges, start life as a narrow ridge between two hills or mountains. Over time, a portion of the interior of the ridge is weathered away, while the bulk of the ridge resists weathering, resulting in an arch or bridge.

Landforms formed by physical weathering
Natural arch or natural bridge caused by physical weathering (natural arch image by Mike & Valerie Miller from Fotolia.com)

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