Complex weathering in drylands: implications of 'stress' history for rock debris breakdown and sediment release

Patricia Warke

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Citations (Scopus)


Weathering studies have often sought to explain features in terms of a prevailing set of environmental conditions. However, it is clear that in most present-day hot desert regions, the surface rock debris has been exposed to a range of weathering environments and processes. These different weathering conditions can arise in two ways, either from the effects of long-term climate change acting on debris that remains relatively static within the landscape or through the spatial relocation of debris from high to low altitude. Consequently, each fragment of rock may contain a unique weathering-related legacy of damage and alteration — a legacy that may greatly influence its response to present-day weathering activity. Experiments are described in which blocks of limestone, sandstone, granite and basalt are given ‘stress histories’ by subjecting them to varying numbers of heating and freezing cycles as a form of pre-treatment. These imposed stress histories act as proxies for a weathering history. Some blocks were used in a laboratory salt weathering simulation study while others underwent a 2 year field exposure trial at high, mid and low altitude sites in Death Valley, California. Weight loss and ultrasonic pulse velocity measurements suggest that blocks with stress histories deteriorate more rapidly than unstressed samples of the same rock type exposed to the same environmental conditions. Laboratory data also indicate that the result of imposing a known ‘weathering history’ on samples by pre-stressing them is an increase in the amount of fine sediment released during salt weathering over a given period of time in comparison to unstressed samples.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)30-48
Number of pages19
Volume85 (1-2)
Issue number1-2
Publication statusPublished - 15 Mar 2007

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Earth-Surface Processes


Dive into the research topics of 'Complex weathering in drylands: implications of 'stress' history for rock debris breakdown and sediment release'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this