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Tor, California

Erosional Landform Pictures

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A tor is a particular kind of hill—bare rock, sticking high above its surroundings, and often displaying rounded and picturesque shapes. (more below)
Old rocky tops
Photo (c) 2003 Andrew Alden, licensed to About.com (fair use policy)
The classic tor occurs in the British Isles, granite knobs rising from the gray-green moors. But this example is one of many in California's Joshua Tree National Park and elsewhere in the Mojave Desert where granitic rocks exist.

The rounded rock forms are due to chemical weathering under thick soil. Acid groundwater penetrates along jointing planes and softens the granite into a loose gravel called grus. When climate changes, the soil mantle is stripped away to reveal the bones of the bedrock beneath. The Mojave was once much wetter than today, but as it dried out this distinctive granite landscape emerged. Periglacial processes, related to frozen ground during the ice ages, may have helped remove the overburden of the tors of Britain.

For more pictures like this, see the Joshua Tree National Park Photo-Tour.

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