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Rock control on microweathering of bedrock surfaces in a periglacial environment

Nicholson, DT (2008) Rock control on microweathering of bedrock surfaces in a periglacial environment. Geomorphology, 101 (4). pp. 655-665. ISSN 0169-555X

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Abstract

Microweathering of ice-smoothed bedrock surfaces was investigated in the Røldal area of Hardanger Plateau (60°), southern Norway. Postglacial rates of weathering were determined from surface lowering using quartz veins as reference surfaces. Weathering processes are inferred from assessment of weathering rind formation, surface hardness, and the preservation of small-scale glacial erosional features. Surface lowering rates for a range of metamorphic rocks vary from 0.05 to 2.20 mm ka - 1 and are broadly comparable with those obtained from crystalline rocks in other periglacial environments. The mean rate of surface lowering at 0.55 mm ka - 1 is low and demonstrates the relatively small impact of microweathering on postglacial landscape evolution. Variations in bedrock microweathering can be explained by lithological variation. Amphibolite and mica-rich bedrock surfaces experience greater denudation and weakening, least weathering rind formation, and abundant preservation of glacial striae, despite greater surface lowering. Conversely, quartz-rich bedrock surfaces are most resistant to denudation and weakening, but have greater weathering rind formation and fewer preserved striae. Postglacial microweathering is achieved primarily through granular disintegration involving detachment and removal of mineral grains and weakening from increased porosity. Granular decomposition is manifest in the formation of weathering rinds. Analysis of interactions between weathering indices indicates that rind accumulation is limited by microerosion. A conceptual model is proposed that illustrates the temporal interrelationships between in situ and erosional facets of microweathering in two contrasting mineral assemblages. The model proposes that cyclic processes of in situ disintegration, decomposition, and erosion are at work. The relative balance between these processes varies with lithology so that in more resistant quartz-rich rocks the net effect is minimal surface lowering and accumulation of weathering rind. In weaker, amphibolitic and micaceous rocks, the net effect is greater surface lowering and minimal accumulation of weathering rind. The results of the research demonstrate the important influence of rock properties, notably mineral composition, in postglacial microweathering of crystalline bedrock in a periglacial environment. © 2008 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

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