Changing Earth's Surface - A Weathering Wonderland!

From a geological standpoint, Utah is truly a weathering wonderland. Geology is the branch of science that deals with the crust of Earth's. Geological means having to do with geology. So in short, if you're looking for some cool crust features, this is the place!

Beautiful Bryce

Many people are surprised to learn that ice plays a very important role in the weathering of the rocks in Bryce Canyon.

In the winter, snow falls in Bryce Canyon. During the day the sun melts some of the snow and water gets into small cracks in the rocks.

Steps of Ice Weathering

  1. At night, the temperatures get colder and the water in the cracks freezes. When water freezes it expands or gets bigger.
  2. The ice pushes against the sides of the cracks and makes the cracks bigger.
  3. The next day, the ice melts and a little more water gets into the cracks.
  4. This process repeats itself day after day, winter after winter.

Eventually the cracks in the rocks get so big that a piece of the rock breaks off. It may take thousands of years for this to happen. Watch the rock at the right. See an example of how this process happens.

A more beautiful world - by making less of it!

When you think of nature's wonders, geological images come to mind: valleys, canyons, buttes, arches, and sandy beaches. Each is crafted through weathering and erosion.

Canyon - a narrow valley with steep sides, usually with a river in the bottom. They can be cut by river action, or frost and ice wedging. A v-shaped one is cut by river action (running water again!) A u-shape, like the photo of Little Cottonwood Canyon, indicates a valley cut by a glacier. A glacier is like river of slow-moving ice.

Valley - a lowland between hills.

Butte - a steep, flat-topped hill created by erosion. Buttes and their bigger brothers, mesas, are found in dry climates, so they are eroded more by wind and gravity action. They have soft rock layers topped by a harder cap.

Arch - over time water seeps into cracks in the sandstone. Ice forms expanding the surrounding rock and breaking pieces off. Winds clean out the loose particles. The process repeats.

Beach - a collection of sand, pebbles and small rocks. Beach material was weathered and eroded from materials on the land or washed up by waves from sea bottoms.

Start it!

Create a landforms field guide. Each page should have a small sketch, the name of the landform, and how it was created. You can add pages throughout this unit of Sciber-text! If you would like to make a mini-book, here's how.  

Figure A

Figure B

Figure C

Figure D

Figure E

Figure F

Figure G

Figure H

Figure I

Figure J

Figure K

Figure L

Figure M

Figure N

Figure O

Figure P

  • Fold an 8 1/2" X 11" piece of paper lengthwise (Figures A and B)
  • Fold it in half again the other way. (Figures C and D)
  • Fold it in half again. (Figures E and F)
  • Open out two folds. (Figures G and H)
  • You'll see a "plus" sign created by folds. (Figure I)
  • Cut from the folded edge of the "plus" to the center. (Figure J and K)
  • Open the "legs" of the paper and "crack" the egg. (Figures L and M)
  • Fold flat. (Figure N and O)
  • You should have eight pages. (Figure P)

utah state board of education This Sci-ber Text was developed by the Utah State Board of Education and Utah educators.