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.
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.
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.
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.
Weathering and erosion both involve rocks, but there are three main differences between these two processes.
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
Take a look at examples of weathering and examples of erosion side by side in a chart to see the slight differences between them.
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
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.
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.