While processes such as volcanic activity and folding are working to create various features on the Earth’s surface, other processes are working very hard to wear them down. Over time, a volcano, lava dome, or even a massive mountain range can be completely worn down. The wearing away of the Earth’s surface by processes such as weathering, mass wasting and erosion is known as denudation. Let us begin by defining some important terms:
Weathering: This refers to the breakdown of rock in situ due to long term exposure to the effects of the weather. The term “in situ” means in its original place. Therefore, the rock does not move while it is being broken down.
Erosion: This refers to the removal of weathered material by agents such as running water, wind or glaciers.
Mass wasting: This refers to the movement of weathered material downslope under the influence of gravity. It is also called mass movement.
The processes defined above are in a constant “tug of war” with processes such as folding and volcanic activity. As one group of processes works to build features, another group of processes is working to wear them down. The result is an environment which is diverse, interesting and constantly changing.