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Deep Weathering: Alteration of Rocks Below Earth Surface

by Stuart Mark Howden
Published: Last Updated on
Deep Weathering

Deep weathering involves the breakdown and alteration of rocks through physical, chemical, and biological processes, often extending deep into the subsurface. It can result in the formation of clay-rich soils, the leaching of minerals, and the development of characteristic landscape features such as saprolite or regolith.

What is deep weathering?

Define: Deep weathering is a term used to describe the process of weathering and alteration of rock at depths below the Earth’s surface. This process can occur over millions of years, and is often driven by the action of water, as well as changes in temperature and pressure.

During this type of weathering, the minerals in rock are subjected to chemical reactions that alter their structure and composition.

For example, water can interact with minerals in rock to form new minerals, or it can dissolve minerals and carry them away. As a result, it can lead to the formation of new rock layers or the alteration of existing rock layers.


It can have significant impacts on the geology and geomorphology of an area. For example, it can create fertile soil for agriculture, or it can lead to the formation of important mineral deposits.

It is also an important factor in the formation of oil and natural gas deposits, as it can create the conditions necessary for the formation of these resources.

Factors that can contribute to deep breakdown

There are several factors that can contribute to it, including the action of water, changes in temperature and pressure, and the presence of certain chemical reactions.

One of the primary drivers is the action of water. Water can dissolve minerals in rock and carry them away, or it can react with minerals to form new minerals. Water can also transport other dissolved substances, such as carbon dioxide, which can facilitate chemical reactions that alter the minerals in rock.


Further, temperature and pressure can also play an important role in it. For example, changes in temperature can cause minerals in rock to expand or contract, leading to physical changes in the rock. Changes in pressure can also affect the stability of minerals in rock, leading to their alteration or dissolution.


Finally, certain chemical reactions can also contribute to this process. For example, the presence of oxygen can lead to the oxidation of minerals in rock, while the presence of certain acids can dissolve minerals or facilitate other chemical reactions.


Deep weathering and landscape evolution in a tropical plateau

Tropical plateaus are regions of elevated terrain that are characterized by a warm, humid climate. It can play a significant role in the evolution of the landscape of a tropical plateau, as the processes of breakdown and erosion can shape the land over millions of years.

One of the primary ways that it can influence the landscape of a tropical plateau is through the formation of soil. It can break down rock and release nutrients that are necessary for the growth of plants.

As plants grow and die, their remains can contribute to the formation of soil, which can support the growth of even more plants. This process can lead to the development of a diverse and productive ecosystem on the plateau.

It can also contribute to the formation of certain geological features on a tropical plateau. For example, both can lead to the formation of valleys, cliffs, and other features that shape the landscape.

In addition, it can create fractures and joints in rock, which can be important for the formation of oil and natural gas deposits.

Geophysical constraints

Geophysical constraints refer to the physical characteristics of an area that can influence these processes. These characteristics can include the composition and structure of the rock, the presence of water and other fluids, and the temperature and pressure conditions at depth.

Furthermore, the composition and structure of the rock can influence it in several ways. For example, certain minerals are more resistant to weathering than others, and the presence of these minerals can slow these process.

In addition, the physical structure of the rock, such as its porosity and permeability, can affect the flow of water and other fluids through the rock, which can influence the its rate and extent.


Deep weathering is a process that occurs over a long period of time and affects the structure and composition of rock at depth. It is driven by factors such as water, temperature changes, and chemical reactions, and can lead to the formation of new minerals and rock layers, as well as the alteration of existing rock layers.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What is weathering mantle?

It refers to the layer of weathered material that covers the bedrock in an area. It is formed through the process of weathering, which breaks down the rocks and minerals into smaller fragments or alters their chemical composition.

It can include various components such as loose soil, sediment, organic matter, and weathered rock fragments. It plays a significant role in soil development, nutrient cycling, and shaping the landscape over time.

2. What is deep weathering in geography?

In geography, it refers to the extensive breakdown of rocks and minerals that occurs over a long period of time.

It involves the breakdown and alteration of rocks through various processes such as physical disintegration, chemical decomposition, and biological activity. It can penetrate deep into the subsurface, affecting not only the top layers but also reaching the underlying bedrock.

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