, Volume 54, Issue 5, pp 1047-1057

Weathering rates of sandstone in a semi-arid environment (Hunter Valley, Australia)

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Abstract

The rate of sandstone weathering in the semi-arid climate of the Hunter Valley, New South Wales, Australia has been estimated from observations of gravestone weathering in the area. The gravestone data points to two distinct stages in the weathering process. The first stage covering the first century of exposure is characterised by a relatively low recession rate of 0.5 mm/100 years. This is followed by a second stage in which the rate of weathering increases sharply to ca 2.5 mm/100 years. The non-linear nature of the weathering trends over time suggests that during the first century of exposure, structural changes took place within the sandstone material, which lay the foundation for accelerated weathering after further exposure. Laboratory trials were also conducted to identify the effectiveness of different weathering processes in the decay of sandstone in this region. Of the four processes examined, only the freeze–thaw cycle produced a significant degree of mass loss and is therefore most likely a strong contributor to the weathering of sandstone in this region.