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Rocks can't be eroded and transported until they have been broken down into smaller pieces by physical weathering. Chemical weathering changes many minerals into clay and iron oxides, some of the most important elements of newly forming soils. Chemical weathering is pervasive, although it is slower in cold or dry climates. Unloading (removal of weight of overlying rocks) can cause homogenous rocks to expand and crack, forming joints (more or less perpendicular to the surface) and exfoliation sheets (parallel to the surface of the rock). Granite exposures in places like the Sierra Nevada or Peninsular Ranges of California provide wonderful exposures of jointing and exfoliation.
Images of Weathering Processes in Yosemite National Park and Sierra Nevada
Exfoliation slabs on Half Dome and Clouds Rest Half Dome from Washburn Point Half Dome from Washburn Point Half Dome, North and Basket Domes, and Royal Arches Half Dome from Glacier Point Summit of Half Dome
Exfoliation slabs on Half Dome in California's Yosemite Valley Half Dome from Washburn Point, showing exfoliation and jointing Half Dome from Washburn Point, showing exfoliation and jointing Half Dome, North and Basket Domes, and Royal Arches in Yosemite Valley, all examples of exfoliation Half Dome and Clouds Rest from Glacier Point above Yosemite Valley Exfolation slabs at summit of Half Dome in Yosemite National Park. Note people on summit for scale
The Three Brothers in Yosemite Valley North Dome from Yosemite Valley North Dome and Royal Arch Cascades Mt. Starr King from Glacier Point Road North Dome from Yosemite Valley floor North and Basket Domes from Glacier Point
The Three Brothers in Yosemite Valley, formed by intersecting joints North Dome from the floor of Yosemite Valley, CA North Dome and the Royal Arches Cascades in Yosemite Valley Mt. Starr King, an exfoliation dome, seen from Glacier Point Road in Yosemite North Dome from the floor of Yosemite Valley, an exfoliation dome North and Basket Domes from Glacier Point above Yosemite Valley
North and Basket Domes in Yosemite Valley Lost Arrow, a spire formed by vertical jointing Royal Arches, exfoliation joints form an arch Royal Arches in Yosemite Valley The Leaning Tower, outlined by vertical joints North Dome and Washington Column in Yosemite Valley
North Dome and Basket Dome in California's Yosemite Valley Lost Arrow in Yosemite Valley, a spire formed by vertical jointing Royal Arches, an overhang formed by exfoliation jointing. Yosemite Valley, California Royal Arches in Yosemite Valley. North Dome above The Leaning Tower in Yosemite Valley, an expression of vertical jointing North Dome (exfoliation) and Washington Column (vertical joints), Yosemite Valley
Royal Arches, North Dome and Washington Column Royal Arches and North Dome, from Glacier Point Diagonal jointing on Three Brothers, Yosemite The Three Brothers Joint controlled topography at Taft Point and Three Brothers Cathedral Spires in Yosemite Valley
Exfoliation and jointing in Yosemite: North Dome, Washington Column and Royal Arches North Dome, Basket Dome and Royal Arches from Glacier Point in Yosemite Valley. Diagonal jointing on the Three Brothers in Yosemite Valley The Three Brothers, formed by joints in two directions. Joint controlled topography at Taft Point and Three Brothers Cathedral Spires in Yosemite Valley, formed by vertical jointing
Taft Fissures above Yosemite Valley The Fissures at Taft Point Joint controlled topography at Three Brothers Three Brothers and Yosemite Falls Exfoliation sheets on Tuolumne Meadows Road Exfoliation joints along Glacier Point Road
Taft Fissures, joint openings on the rim of Yosemite Valley. The Fissures at Taft Point in Yosemite National Park. An exfoliation slab can be seen on the left. Joint controlled topography at  Three Brothers in Yosemite Valley (from near Taft Point). Three Brothers, illustrating diagonal jointing. Yosemite Falls on the right (from Taft Point) Exfoliation sheets on Tuolumne Meadows Road Exfoliation joints along Glacier Point Road in Yosemite National Park
Spheroidal weathering in granitic rocks Spheroidal weathering in granitic rocks Spheroidal weathering in granitic rocks Spheroidal weathering in granitic rocks Spheroidal weathering in granitic rocks Stairstep Falls on south wall of Yosemite Valley
Spheroidal weathering in granitic rocks of the Laguna Mtns, San Diego County, CA Spheroidal weathering in granitic rocks. Chemical weathering occurred along joints where water could seep Spheroidal weathering in granitic rocks. The loose weathered material between the boulders is called grus. Spheroidal weathering in granitic rocks. Chemical weathering attacks corners and edges more effectively, causing rounding of boulders Spheroidal weathering in granitic rocks of the Laguna Mountains of San Diego County, CA Stairstep Falls on south wall of Yosemite Valley, with diagonal joints.
Spheroidal weathering of granite in Alabama Hills, Owens Valley, California Spheroidal weathering of granite in Alabama Hills, Owens Valley, California Spheroidal weathering of granite in Alabama Hills, Owens Valley, California Spheroidal weathering of granite in Alabama Hills, Owens Valley, California Granite weathering to grus in San Joaquin River drainage Deeply weathered granite (grus) and spheroidal weathering, San Joaquin River, Sierra Nevada
Spheroidal weathering of granite in Alabama Hills, Owens Valley, California Spheroidal weathering of granite in Alabama Hills. Rocks weathered beneath the surface Spheroidal weathering of granite in Alabama Hills, Owens Valley, California Spheroidal weathering of granite in Alabama Hills, Owens Valley, California Deeply weathered granite (grus) and spheroidal weathering, San Joaquin River drainage, Sierra Nevada Deeply weathered granite (grus) and spheroidal weathering, Chiquita Creek, Sierra Nevada
Cavernous weathering in Owens Valley CA Cavernous weathering in granite boulder in the Owens Valley of California Jointing in glacially carved granite at Olmsted Point, Yosemite National Park Joints in granite at Olmsted Point, Yosemite National Park Jointing in glacially carved granite at Olmsted Point, Yosemite National Park Jointing in glacially carved granite at Olmsted Point, Yosemite National Park
Cavernous weathering in granite boulder in the Owens Valley of California Cavernous weathering in granite boulder in the Owens Valley of California Jointing in glacially carved granite at Olmsted Point, Yosemite National Park Jointing in glacially carved granite at Olmsted Point, Yosemite National Park Jointing in glacially carved granite at Olmsted Point, Yosemite National Park Jointing in glacially carved granite at Olmsted Point, Yosemite National Park
Exfoliation on Half Dome in Yosemite Valley, California Exfoliation on Half Dome, Yosemite Valley, CA Exfoliation on Mt. Hoffman, Yosemite National Park Exfoliation on Mt. Hoffman, Yosemite Moro Rock exfoliation dome in Sequoia National Park Moro Rock, an exfoliation dome in Sequoia National Park
Exfoliation on Half Dome in Yosemite Valley, California Exfoliation on Half Dome in Yosemite Valley, California Exfoliation sheets on Mt. Hoffman in Yosemite National Park, California Exfoliation sheets on Mt. Hoffman in Yosemite National Park, California Moro Rock, an exfoliation dome in Sequoia National Park Moro Rock, an exfoliation dome in Sequoia National Park
Moro Rock, an exfoliation dome in Sequoia National Park Moro Rock, an exfoliation dome in Sequoia National Park Moro Rock, an exfoliation dome in Sequoia National Park Exfoliation slab in Sequoia National Park Fire spalling of granite boulder in Kings Canyon Exfoliation near Vernal Falls at Yosemite
Moro Rock, an exfoliation dome in Sequoia National Park Moro Rock, an exfoliation dome in Sequoia National Park Exfoliation slabs at the top of Moro Rock in Sequoia National Park, California Exfoliation slab in Sequoia National Park, California Fire spalling in Kings Canyon, Sierra Nevada. Thermal expansion causes flakes of rock to come off the granite boulder. Exfoliation slabs near Vernal Falls in Yosemite National Park (full-sized photo, larger file not available)
Exfoliation slabs near Olmsted Point Exfoliation slabs near Olmsted Point, Yosemite National Park        
Exfoliation slabs near Olmsted Point, Yosemite National Park Exfoliation slabs near Olmsted Point, Yosemite National Park        
Weathering Processes Elsewhere (Joints, Exfoliation and Arches/Natural Bridges)
Jointed sandstone blocks at Cedar Mesa, Utah Jointed sandstone blocks at Cedar Mesa, Utah Sipapu Bridge at Natural Bridges Nat Mon in Utah Kachina Bridge at Natural Bridges National Monument Kachina Bridge at Natural Bridges National Monument Owachomo Bridge at Natural Bridges National Monument
Jointed sandstone blocks at Cedar Mesa, Utah (Permian Cedar Mesa Sandstone) Jointed sandstone blocks at Cedar Mesa, Utah Sipapu Bridge in Natural Bridges National Monument in Utah. Originally opened by stream erosion, it has grown larger from physical weathering Kachina Bridge at Natural Bridges National Monument, and early stage of bridge development Kachina Bridge at Natural Bridges National Monument Owachomo Bridge at Natural Bridges National Monument, a bridge in the latest stage of development. It may collapse soon.
Owachomo Bridge at Natural Bridges National Monument Vertical joints in Black Canyon of the Gunnison Vertical joints control erosion at Black Canyon of the Gunnison The Coke Ovens, hoodoos in Colorado National Monument The Coke Ovens, hoodoos formed by erosion along joints in sandstone at Colorado National Monument Landscape Arch in Entrada Sandstone at Arches National Park
Owachomo Bridge at Natural Bridges National Monument, Utah Vertical joint patterns in Black Canyon of the Gunnison in Colorado Vertical joints control patterns of erosion in Black Canyon of the Gunnison in Colorado The Coke Ovens, hoodoos formed by erosion along vertical joints in sandstone in Colorado National Monument, CO The Coke Ovens, hoodoos formed by erosion along vertical joints in sandstone in Colorado National Monument, CO Landscape Arch, formed along parallel joints in Entrada Sandstone at Arches National Park
Moon and Landscape Arch, Arches National Park Landscape Arch, formed by parallel joints in Entrada Sandstone at Arches National Park Moon and Landscape Arch  Landscape Arch at Arches National Park. Double Arch, formed along parallel joints in Entrada Sandstone at Arches National Park Hoodoos formed by vertical joints at Canyonlands National Park
Moon and Landscape Arch at Arches National Park. Arches formed along fins outlined by parallel joints in sandstone Landscape Arch, formed along parallel joints in Entrada Sandstone at Arches National Park Moon and Landscape Arch at Arches National Park. Landscape Arch, formed along parallel joints in Entrada Sandstone at Arches National Park Double Arch, formed along parallel joints in Entrada Sandstone at Arches National Park Hoodoos formed by vertical joints at Canyonlands National Park. Viewed from Grandview Point on Island in the Sky.
Delicate Arch at Arches National Park Skyline Arch at Arches National Park Narrow rock fins at Arches National Park Fins at Arches National Park Rock fins, formed by parallel joints in Entrada Sandstone at Arches National Park Rock fins at Arches
Delicate Arch at Arches National Park. Skyline Arch at Arches National Park in Utah Rock fins, formed by parallel joints in Entrada Sandstone at Arches National Park Rock fins, formed by parallel joints in Entrada Sandstone at Arches National Park Rock fins, formed by parallel joints in Entrada Sandstone at Arches National Park Rock fins, formed by parallel joints in Entrada Sandstone at Arches National Park
Fins at Arches National Park Fin at Arches National Park (Park Ave) Fin at Park Ave in Arches National Park Joint patterns in cliff at Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park Joint patterns in cliff at Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Par Joint fracture in Cedar Mesa sandstone
Rock fins, formed by parallel joints in Entrada Sandstone at Arches National Park Fins caused by jointing at Park Avenue in Arches National Park Fins caused by jointing at Park Avenue in Arches National Park Joint patterns in cliff at Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park Joint patterns in cliff called the Fissures at Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park Joint fracture in Cedar Mesa sandstone on Cedar Mesa in southern Utah
Hoodoos at Goblin Valley, formed by erosion of jointed blocks of Entrada Sandstone Hoodoos at Goblin Valley State Park, Utah, formed by erosion of jointed blocks of Entrada Sandstone Hoodoos at Goblin Valley State Park, Utah, formed by erosion of jointed blocks of Entrada Sandstone Hoodoos at Goblin Valley State Park, Utah, formed by erosion of jointed blocks of Entrada Sandstone Hoodoos at Goblin Valley State Park, Utah, formed by erosion of jointed blocks of Entrada Sandstone hoodoos at Goblin Valley State Park
Hoodoos at Goblin Valley State Park, Utah, formed by erosion of jointed blocks of Entrada Sandstone Hoodoos at Goblin Valley State Park were used as a movie set in "Galaxy Quest" Hoodoos at Goblin Valley State Park, Utah, formed by erosion of jointed blocks of Entrada Sandstone Hoodoos at Goblin Valley State Park, Utah, formed by erosion of jointed blocks of Entrada Sandstone Hoodoos at Goblin Valley State Park, Utah, formed by erosion of jointed blocks of Entrada Sandstone Hoodoos at Goblin Valley State Park, Utah, formed by erosion of jointed blocks of Entrada Sandstone
Hoodoos at Bryce Canyon National Park Hoodoos formed by erosion along joints at Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah Hoodoos formed by erosion along joints at Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah Hoodoos formed by erosion along joints at Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah Hoodoos formed by erosion along joints at Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah Hoodoos formed by erosion along joints at Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah
Hoodoos formed by erosion along joints at Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah Hoodoos formed by erosion along joints at Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah Hoodoos formed by erosion along joints at Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah Hoodoos formed by erosion along joints in Wall Street Canyon at Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah Deep cleft formed by erosion along joints at Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah Hoodoos near Sunrise Point formed by erosion along joints at Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah
Checkerboard Mesa in Zion National Park The Great Arch at Zion National Park Conjugate joints in granite at Split Rock in Joshua Tree National Park Conjugate joints in granite at Split Rock in Joshua Tree National Park.    
Checkerboard Mesa in Zion National Park. The pattern is caused by vertical joints that are perpendicular to horizontal crossbedding in the Navajo Sandstone The Zion Arch at Zion National Park Conjugate joints in granite at Split Rock in Joshua Tree National Park. Note the 60/120 degree angless Conjugate joints in granite at Split Rock in Joshua Tree National Park. Note the 60/120 degree angless    

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