Stone temperature and moisture variability under temperate environmental conditions: implications for sandstone weathering

Daniel McAllister, Patricia Warke, Stephen McCabe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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Abstract

Temperature and moisture conditions are key drivers of stone weathering processes in both natural and built environments. Given their importance in the breakdown of stone, a detailed understanding of their temporal and spatial variability is central to understanding present-day weathering behaviour and for predicting how climate change may influence the nature and rates of future stone decay.
Subsurface temperature and moisture data are reported from quarry fresh Peakmoor Sandstone samples exposed during summer (June–July) and late autumn / early winter (October–December) in a mid-latitude, temperate maritime environment. These data demonstrate that the subsurface thermal response of sandstone comprises numerous short-term (minutes), low magnitude fluctuations superimposed upon larger-scale diurnal heating and cooling cycles with distinct aspect-related differences. The short-term fluctuations create conditions in the outer 5–10 mm of stone that are much more ‘energetic’ in comparison to the more subdued thermal cycling that occurs deeper within the sandstone samples.
Data show that moisture dynamics are equally complex with a near-surface region (5–10 mm) in which frequent moisture cycling takes place and this, combined with the thermal dynamism exhibited by the same region may have significant implications for the nature and rate of weathering activity. Data indicate that moisture input from rainfall, particularly when it is wind-driven, can travel deep into the stone where it can prolong the time of wetness. This most often occurs during wetter winter months when moisture input is high and evaporative loss is low but can happen at any time during the year when the hydraulic connection between near-surface and deeper regions of the stone is disrupted with subsequent loss of moisture from depth slowing as it becomes reliant on vapour diffusion alone.
These data illustrate the complexity of temperature and moisture conditions in sandstone exposed to the ‘moderate’ conditions of a temperate maritime environment. They highlight differences in thermal and moisture cycling between near-surface (5–10 mm) and deeper regions within the stone and contribute towards a better understanding of the development of structural and mineralogical heterogeneity between the stone surface and substrate.
Original languageEnglish
JournalGeomorphology
Early online date19 Dec 2016
DOIs
Publication statusEarly online date - 19 Dec 2016

Keywords

  • Peakmoor sandstone
  • Temperature
  • Moisture
  • weathering

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