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  1. null (Ed.)
    Abstract Erosion at Earth’s surface exposes underlying bedrock to climate-driven chemical and physical weathering, transforming it into a porous, ecosystem-sustaining substrate consisting of weathered bedrock, saprolite, and soil. Weathering in saprolite is typically quantified from bulk geochemistry assuming physical strain is negligible. However, modeling and measurements suggest that strain in saprolite may be common, and therefore anisovolumetric weathering may be widespread. To explore this possibility, we quantified the fraction of porosity produced by physical weathering, FPP, at three sites with differing climates in granitic bedrock of the Sierra Nevada, California, USA. We found that strain produces more porosity than chemical mass loss at each site, indicative of strongly anisovolumetric weathering. To expand the scope of our study, we quantified FPP using available volumetric strain and mass loss data from granitic sites spanning a broader range of climates and erosion rates. FPP in each case is ≥0.12, indicative of widespread anisovolumetric weathering. Multiple regression shows that differences in precipitation and erosion rate explain 94% of the variance in FPP and that >98% of Earth’s land surface has conditions that promote anisovolumetric weathering in granitic saprolite. Our work indicates that anisovolumetric weathering is the norm, rather than the exception, and highlights the importance of climate and erosion as drivers of subsurface physical weathering. 
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  2. Abstract

    The porous near‐surface layer of the Earth's crust – the critical zone – constitutes a vital reservoir of water for ecosystems, provides baseflow to streams, guides recharge to deep aquifers, filters contaminants from groundwater, and regulates the long‐term evolution of landscapes. Recent work suggests that the controls on regolith thickness include climate, tectonics, lithology, and vegetation. However, the relative paucity of observations of regolith structure and properties at landscape scales means that theoretical models of critical zone structure are incompletely tested. Here we present seismic refraction and electrical resistivity surveys that thoroughly characterize subsurface structure in a small catchment in the Santa Catalina Mountains, Arizona, USA, where slope‐aspect effects on regolith structure are expected based on differences in vegetation. Our results show a stark contrast in physical properties and inferred regolith thickness on opposing slopes, but in the opposite sense of that expected from environmental models and observed vegetation patterns. Although vegetation (as expressed by normalized difference vegetation index [NDVI]) is denser on the north‐facing slope, regolith on the south‐facing slope is four times thicker (as indicated by lower seismic velocities and resistivities). This contrast cannot be explained by variations in topographic stress or conventional hillslope morphology models. Instead, regolith thickness appears to be controlled by metamorphic foliation: regolith is thicker where foliation dips into the topography, and thinner where foliation is nearly parallel to the surface. We hypothesize that, in this catchment, hydraulic conductivity and infiltration capacity control weathering: infiltration is hindered and regolith is thin where foliation is parallel to the surface topography, whereas water infiltrates deeper and regolith is thicker where foliation intersects topography at a substantial angle. These results suggest that bedrock foliation, and perhaps by extension sedimentary layering, can control regolith thickness and must be accounted for in models of critical zone development. © 2020 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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  3. Abstract

    Subsurface weathering has traditionally been measured using cores and boreholes to quantify vertical variations in weathered material properties. However, these measurements are typically available at only a few, potentially unrepresentative points on hillslopes. Geophysical surveys, conversely, span many more points and, as shown here, can be used to obtain a representative, site‐integrated perspective on subsurface weathering. Our approach aggregates data from multiple seismic refraction surveys into a single frequency distribution of porosity and depth for the surveyed area. We calibrated the porosities at a site where cores are coincident with seismic refraction surveys. Modeled porosities from the survey data match measurements at the core locations but reveal a frequency distribution of porosity and depth that differs markedly from the cores. Our results highlight the value of using the site‐integrated perspective obtained from the geophysical data to quantify subsurface weathering and water‐holding capacity.

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