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Keywords:

  • weathering;
  • albedo;
  • rock temperatures;
  • northern Canada;
  • Antarctica

Abstract

Broadly speaking, there is, at least within geomorphic circles, a general acceptance that rocks with low albedos will warm both faster and to higher temperatures than rocks with high albedos, reflectivity influencing radiative warming. Upon this foundation are built notions of weathering in respect of the resulting thermal differences, both at the grain scale and at the scale of rock masses. Here, a series of paving bricks painted in 20 per cent reflectivity intervals from black through to white were used to monitor albedo-influenced temperatures at a site in northern Canada in an attempt to test this premise. Temperatures were collected, for five months, for the rock surface and the base of the rock, the blocks being set within a mass of local sediment. Resulting thermal data did indeed show that the dark bricks were warmer than the white but only when their temperatures were equal to or cooler than the air temperature. As brick temperature exceeded that of the air, so the dark and light bricks moved to parity; indeed, the white bricks frequently became warmer than the dark. It is argued that this ‘negating’ of the albedo influence on heating is a result of the necessity of the bricks, both white and black, to convect heat away to the surrounding cooler air; the darker brick, being hotter, initially convects faster than the white as a product of the temperature difference between the two media. Thus, where the bricks become significantly hotter than the air, they lose energy to that air and so their respective temperatures become closer, the albedo influence being superceded by the requirement to equilibrate with the surrounding air. It is argued that this finding will have importance to our understanding of weathering in general and to our perceptions of weathering differences between different lithologies. Copyright © 2005 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.