Essay on Weathering and Soil-Forming Factors

Published: 2021/12/28
Number of words: 1015


The breaking down of the earth´s rocks into smaller particles forms the varying sizes of soil, which again constitutes part of the earth’s surface. This process, also known as weathering, occurs due to physical forces and chemical processes leading to the development of the parent material (regolith) for soil formation. Physical weathering alters the size of rock particles, while chemical weathering changes the chemical components of the resulting soil. Chemical agents of weathering include temperature, pressure, and oxygen dissolved in liquid water (Lopez and Macario 457). This experiment involved observing and establishing weathering in the field and then providing detailed field observations to appreciate the natural process. The main research problems entailed weathering observation and then consequent soil formation in the different natural environments and the connection to environmental evidence as interpreted

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Materials Used

  • Notebook
  • Pencil
  • Digital camera


The identification of weathering process involved locating the weathering features. The local geology, landscape, and climate were used in the site identification and study. Three examples of weathering were identified, photos of the weathering features were recorded and the physical location marked. The three identified weathering processes and locations identified in the report are the Canyonlands National Park, Utah, Highway 3, Wainfleet, Ontario, and Lake Nicol, Tuscaloosa, AL. The weathering features identified in the locations were two rock outcrops and an exterior of a building along the highway. Canyonlands National Park, Utah is located in a desert landscape and bound by the colorado river. Lake Nicol, Tuscaloosa, AL is a man-made lake around the city, and therefore the weathering feature may be a result of the exposure to water within the lake hence the mechanical means of disintegration (Anderson 251). Highway 3, Wainfleet, Ontario is a highway within the shores of Lake Erie.

The weathering feature around the location results from exposure to the water from the lake and human activities along the highway. The sizes of the weathering feature varied where the exterior of the building provided the largest size in weathering feature at approximately 20 kilograms of the weathering materials. The other two rock outcrops were at a size approximated at 15 kilograms. Regarding color, the rock outcrops had a brownish color and the exterior of a building had a greyish color. The visible breakdown was identified near all the weathering features. The rock outcrops had coarse-grained particles around them at approximately 70mm in diameter size. The exterior of a building feature o the other hand had medium-grained particles around it approximated at 2mm in diameter size.

Results and Discussion

Three key weathering features were identified and studied, mostly those aspects that were considered as mechanical weathering by-products. Mechanical weathering involves the disintegration of features, including rocks, soil, and minerals into smaller particles as a result of physical/ mechanical agents. Mechanical agents of weathering act as wedges that forces rocks apart and causes the outer layer of rocks to disintegrate (Anderson 248). Highway 3, Wainfleet, Ontario, the Canyonlands National Park, Utah, and the Lake Nicol, Tuscaloosa, AL features weather because they are exposed to nature and especially the waters in the lakes around them. The features are subjected to frost wedging where water from the lakes seeps into the physical features resulting in cracks, especially after the rocks have expanded and freeze, a process typically explained by mechanical weathering involving expansion and wedging ( Anderson 252). The rocks are carried in the lake water over some distance and in this process, these rocks disintegrate. Notably, the resultant size of the end weathering process byproducts of the rock particles depends on the distance the rock particles cover in water. The longer the distance the smaller the particles and the shorter the distance the larger the size of the elements. The Canyonlands National Park, Utah feature can also weather as a result of plant and animal activity around the location.

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The presence of animals, as well as plants, otherwise known as biological weathering agents, constitute significantly to the weathering process. Plant roots exert pressure on the rocks around the area, while animals’ movements offer the necessary mechanical pressure to disintegrate these rocks into smaller particles (Lopez and Macario 449). It is worth noting that Highway 3, Wainfleet, Ontario features weather as a result of erosion. The rocks in these regions are exposed to natural forces, such as gravity and other natural forces, leading to their disintegration.


Weathering is the basis of soil formation, and mostly, its agents act solely or collectively in order to foster the weathering process. The extent and rate of weathering depend entirely on the geology, climate, and landscape of a place. Locations exposed to more than a single agent of weathering will experience accelerated weathering, resulting in the formation of fine soil particles. A slow rate of weathering leads to the formation of coarse soil particles which when exposed further to agents of weathering would disintegrate further. This report has experimental results and findings of the weathering and soil formation process, highlighting how various agents contribute to disintegration processes in order to orchestrate different soil characteristics.

Works Cited

Anderson, Suzanne P. “Breaking it Down: Mechanical Processes in the Weathering Engine.” Elements: An International Magazine of Mineralogy, Geochemistry, and Petrology. Vol., 15 no. 4, 2019. pp. 247-252.

Lopez, Blanca R., and Macario Bacilio. “Weathering and Soil Formation in Hot, Dry Environments Mediated by Plant–Microbe Interactions.” Biology and Fertility of Soils. Vol. 56, no.4, 2020. pp 447-459.


Figure.1: Highway 3, Wainfleet, Ontario


Figure.2: Canyonlands National Park, Utah

Figure..3: Lake Nicol, Tuscaloosa, AL

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