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Chemical Weathering

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Chemical weathering

Oxidation turns this peridotite from gray to rusty brown.

Andrew Alden photo

Definition: Chemical weathering (also known as decomposition or decay) is the breakdown of rock (weathering) by chemical mechanisms, the most important ones being carbonation, hydration, hydrolysis, oxidation, and ion exchange in solution.

Chemical weathering changes the composition of the rock material toward surface minerals, such as clays. It attacks minerals that are relatively unstable in surface conditions, such as the primary minerals of igneous rocks like basalt, granite or peridotite.

Water is especially effective at introducing chemically active agents by way of fractures and causing rocks to crumble piecemeal or by loosening thin shells of material (in spheroidal weathering). Chemical weathering may include shallow, low-temperature alteration.

See examples of these in the chemical weathering picture gallery.

Chemical weathering is an element of corrosion or chemical erosion.

Also Known As: Decomposition, decay

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