Wildfires as a weathering agent of carbonate rocks

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While most of the scientific effort regarding wildfires has predominantly focused on fire effects on vegetation and soils, the role of fire as an essential weathering agent has been largely overlooked. This study aims to evaluate rock decay processes during wildfires, in relation to ground temperatures and rock morphologies of limestone, dolomite, and chalk. In 2010, a major forest fire in Israel caused massive destruction of the exposed rocks and accelerated rock weathering over the burned slopes. While a detailed description of the bedrock exfoliation phenomenon was previously reported, here, we conducted an experimental open fire to determine the temperature and gradients responsible for boulder shattering. The results show ground temperatures of 700 °C after 5 min from ignition, while the peak temperature (880 °C) was reached after 9 min. Temperature gradients show a rapid increase during the first 5 min (136 °C/min), moderate increase during the next 4 min (43 °C/min), and slow decrease for the next 9 min (25 °C/min). After 12 min, all boulders of all for-mations were cracked or completely shattered. The behaviour of carbonate rocks upon heating was studied to identify the erosive effects of fire, namely the formation of new cracks and matrix deterioration.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1091
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 by the authors. Li-censee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland.


  • Carbonate rocks
  • Exfoliation
  • Limestone
  • Mechanical weathering
  • Rock breakdown
  • Thermal shock
  • Wildfires

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geotechnical Engineering and Engineering Geology
  • Geology


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