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Loose material formed by weathering

The loose material formed by weathering can also be discharged over time by water, ice or wind or as a result of gravity. This ‘natural transport’ is called erosion. The means of transport and the type of parent rock determine the degree and form of erosion. The extent to which a river erodes rocks, for example, depends on the flow velocity. A fast-flowing river will erode mainly in the depths and wear out a deep V-valley in the landscape. A slow-flowing river is more likely to erode sideways, resulting in a meandering river course over a wide valley floor.

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Erosion is mainly limited to the land. Hardly any erosion takes place in the seas and oceans, with the exception of coasts and submarine canyons.

Weathering and erosion affect the weak spots in a rock. A rock with a clear stratification will erode along this stratification. A preferred area along which the rock breaks up is called fission. Coagulation rocks have no stratification, but when they cool down, diaclogical bubbles may have formed in the rock.

The extent to which a rock is resistant to erosion is called the competence. Competent layers can form backs in the landscape, round intrusion bodies of granite form concentric mountain massifs.

Coagulation and volcanism

At great depths in the Earth, rocks can melt. Melted rock is called magma. When magma solidifies, minerals crystallize and a crystalline rock forms. The rock formed in this way is called igneous rock. The minerals that make up the igneous rock depend on the composition of the magma from which it was formed. Also important is whether the cooling and crystallization went fast or slow. With rapid cooling, crystals will hardly have had time to grow. The rock will then consist of many small crystals, this is called an afanitic texture. With slow cooling, the crystals can become larger. Such a rock has large crystals. This is called a fanatic texture.

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Deep rock and magmatism
By far the largest part of the earth’s crust consists of deep rock, which was formed by the solidification of magma. Magma is caused by the partial melting of rocks in the lower parts of the earth’s crust, or directly underneath in the mantle. Magma is often lighter than the rocks at that depth, causing it to move upwards. In doing so, it intrudes into the rock above. As soon as the difference in density is no longer large enough, the rising magma comes to a standstill and collects in magma chambers.

In a magma chamber, magma differentiation occurs: the magma changes its chemical composition. There are a number of ways in which this can happen. For example, a magma body may, over time, mix with other magmas of a different composition, or parts of the surrounding rock may melt due to the heat of the intrusion and “pollute” the magma.

By slowly cooling down the magma, a process called crystal fractionation also takes place. Because magma is a mixture of different chemical components, it does not have a single crystallization temperature, but a crystallization trajectory. Minerals with a high melting point will crystallise first, minerals with a lower melting point will only crystallise later, when the magma has cooled down further. The high melting point minerals are minerals that are low in silica (called mafia) and rich in the elements iron and magnesium. In a magma chamber, these relatively heavy minerals will first crystallize and sink to the bottom of the chamber. This changes the composition of the magma: it becomes lighter and more silicacious (phelsic).

Magma can penetrate further upwards from a magma chamber, this happens in vertical magmas called dykes, or horizontal magmas called sills or laccoliths. Because magma becomes lighter and lighter during crystallisation, it will become easier to ascend further when the magma chamber has already cooled down partially. As a result of further crystallisation, more and more silicacious magma’s are formed.

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Volcanic rock and volcanism
If magma penetrates through the crust so far that it reaches the surface, volcanism takes place. Sometimes this means that magma flows from a volcano over the surface, it is called lava. If lava solidifies, it does so quickly and forms a coagulation rock with very small crystals.

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