Difference Between Weathering & Erosion: Shaping Forces

While weathering and erosion are similar processes, they are not synonymous. Weathering involves the breakdown of rocks and minerals on Earth, whereas erosion involves the removal of soil and rock materials. Learn more about these geological processes to see the difference between weathering and erosion. 

difference between erosion and weatheringdifference between erosion and weathering

What Is Weathering?

In science weathering is defined as:

disintegration or alteration of rock in its natural or original position at or near the Earth’s surface through physical, chemical, and biological processes

Weathering is either started by or modified by factors such as wind, water, and climate. It is the breakdown of rocks into pieces or fragments. 

Types of Weathering

There are two basic types of weathering, mechanical weathering and chemical weathering. 

What Is Erosion?

In science erosion is defined as:

the process by which soil and rock particles are worn away and moved elsewhere by gravity, wind, water or ice

Soil and rock debris left behind by weathering are transported during the process of erosion.  

Types of Erosion

If you look at examples of erosion, you’ll see that there aren’t necessarily types of erosion, but different methods of erosion. 

  • Bioerosion - Plant growth breaks up and moves soil or rocks.

  • Ice erosion (glacial erosion) - Glaciers moved by gravity carry sediment away.

  • Liquid water erosion - Rain and bodies of water carry or wash away sediment.

  • Mass wasting - Rocks and soil are moved downward from events like landslides.

  • Wind erosion - Wind carries sediment away.

Main Differences Between Weathering and Erosion

Weathering and erosion both involve rocks, but there are three main differences between these two processes. 

Weathering 

Erosion

happens at site of rock or mineral

happens away from original location

does not involve movement of materials

involves movement of materials

breaks down rocks and minerals

moves and deposits rocks and minerals

Examples of Weathering and Erosion

Take a look at examples of weathering and examples of erosion side by side in a chart to see the slight differences between them. 

Weathering

Erosion

large rocks in a river being broken down 

pebbles rolling along a river bed

sand-sized particles of a rock breaking off their original source

grains of sand suspended in and moving with wind

fragments breaking off a large deposit of rock salt

salt suspended in ocean water and moving with currents

Weathering vs. Erosion vs. Deposition

Deposition is the opposite of erosion in science. It is the “accumulation or laying down of matter by a natural process.” So, weathering can lead to erosion or deposition, and erosion can lead to weathering or deposition. 

Shaping the World

Processes like weathering, erosion, and deposition shape the natural world you live in. Explore nearby and famous landforms to see how these processes contributed to the look of those landforms today.

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