Dynamical instability in surface permeability characteristics of building sandstones in response to salt accumulation over time

Stephen McCabe, Jennifer M. McKinley, M. Gomez-Heras, Bernard J. Smith

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)
26 Downloads (Pure)

Abstract

This paper explores how the surface permeability of sandstone blocks changes over time in response to repeated salt weathering cycles. Surface permeability controls the amount of moisture and dissolved salt that can penetrate in and facilitate decay. Connected pores permit the movement of moisture (and hence soluble salts) into the stone interior, and where areas are more or less permeable soluble salts may migrate along preferred pathways at differential rates. Previous research has shown that salts can accumulate in the near-surface zone and lead to partial pore blocking which influences subsequent moisture ingress and causes rapid salt accumulation in the near-surface zone.

Two parallel salt weathering simulations were carried out on blocks of Peakmoor Sandstone of different volumes. Blocks were removed from simulations after 2, 5, 10, 20 and 60 cycles. Permeability measurements were taken for these blocks at a resolution of 20 mm, providing a grid of 100 permeability values for each surface. The geostatistical technique of ordinary kriging was applied to the data to produce a smoothed interpolation of permeability for these surfaces, and hence improve understanding of the evolution of permeability over time in response to repeated salt weathering cycles.

Results illustrate the different responses of the sandstone blocks of different volumes to repeated salt weathering cycles. In both cases, after an initial subtle decline in the permeability (reflecting pore blocking), the permeability starts to increase — reflected in a rise in mean, maximum and minimum values. However, between 10 and 20 cycles, there is a jump in the mean and range permeability of the group A block surfaces coinciding with the onset of meaningful debris release. After 60 cycles, the range of permeability in the group A block surface had increased markedly, suggesting the development of a secondary permeability. The concept of dynamic instability and divergent behaviour is applied at the scale of a single block surface, with initial small-scale differences across a surface having larger scale consequences as weathering progresses.

After cycle 10, group B blocks show a much smaller increase in mean permeability, and the range stays relatively steady — this may be explained by the capillary conditions set up by the smaller volume of the stone, allowing salts to migrate to the ‘back’ of the blocks and effectively relieving stress at the ‘front’ face.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)65-75
Number of pages11
JournalGeomorphology
Volume130
Issue number1-2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 01 Jul 2011

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Earth-Surface Processes

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