The role of rock surface hardness and internal moisture in tafoni development in sandstone

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The development of cavernous weathering features such as tafoni remains poorly understood. In particular, the roles played by internal moisture and case hardening remain unclear. In this study, Electric Resistivity Tomography (ERT) has been used to map moisture distribution within inner walls of tafoni developed in sandstone, and an Equotip device used to measure rock surface hardness as a proxy measure of the degree of weathering and case hardening. Seven large tafoni in the Golden Gate Highlands National Park (South Africa), varying in size and degree of development have been monitored. A dynamic relationship between surface hardness, degree of weathering and internal moisture regimes has been found. We propose a new conceptual model which illustrates the complex interaction between case hardening and internal moisture and suggests a new direction for cavernous weathering research. Copyright © 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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