Investigating the complex interface where bedrock transforms to regolith

Susan L. Brantley, Heather L Buss, M Lebedeva, RC Fletcher, Lin Ma

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The interface where bedrock transforms to regolith is not planar but rather has a roughness that varies with the scale of observation. The complexity of this surface is manifested in both element-depth and fragment size-depth distributions and may sometimes be related to the longitudinal profiles of watershed streams. The fractal nature of the bedrock-regolith interface means that the interface has a “thickness” which is >20 m in two ridgetop examples from Pennsylvania and Puerto Rico. Such weathering thicknesses, modeled as a function of one-dimensional fluid flow, are affected by the balance between rates of weathering and erosion. One-dimensional models are consistent with weathering advance rates that vary with equilibrium solubility and porefluid velocities (and not reaction kinetics). However, fluid flow is not strictly downward and one-dimensional. Permeability of regolith changes as particle size and bulk density changes with depth. Thus, both downward and lateral flow occurs especially at reaction fronts where reactions change permeability. The rate of weathering advance is, therefore, affected by the 3-dimensional distribution of reaction zones that affect permeability across the watershed. Quantitative models of such phenomena over a range of spatial and temporal scales are needed.
Translated title of the contributionInvestigating the complex interface where bedrock transforms to regolith
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)S12-S15
Number of pages4
JournalApplied Geochemistry
Early online date22 Mar 2011
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2011


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  • WEBB: USGS Water Energy and Biogeochemical Budgets

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