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What is freeze-thaw weathering?

Updated July 19, 2017

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

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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

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.

Sand from Rock

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

Power of Time

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

Breakdown of Matter

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


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

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About the Author

Cheryl L. Krueger

Cheryl Krueger is a retired Ohio elementary school teacher who enjoys raising pygmy goats and miniature donkeys. After concluding a 31-year teaching career, Krueger is now looking forward to freelance writing. She holds a bachelor's degree in education from Bowling Green State University and a master's degree in curriculum and instruction from Ashland University. She has written for eHow and Trails.com.

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