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Surface-recession weathering of marble tombstones: New field data and constraints

Sheila M. Roberts
Sheila M. Roberts
Department of Environmental Sciences, The University of Montana–Western, Dillon, Montana 59725, USA
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January 01, 2005

Vertical marble-slab tombstones offer unique advantages over natural stone exposures for measuring historical carbonate weathering rates. One of the most commonly measured properties is surface recession rate, defined in this study as the difference in thickness between the relatively unweathered base and the weathered top of the tombstone.

Use of the “base-minus-top” method makes several assumptions, which are revisited in the light of this research:

  1. Tombstone thickness from top to base is originally very uniform. Data show that up to 1 mm (but less than 2 mm) original difference in thickness may be common.

  2. The tombstone base remains sufficiently unweathered to provide an accurate estimate of the original thickness. Different locations have different maximum ages for which this assumption is valid.

  3. Weathering is even across the top of the tombstone. Although thickness across the top of an individual weathered tombstone varies, three consistently placed measurements seem to provide a reproducible average thickness.

  4. Surface recession at the tombstone top is measurable and acceptably precise. The total thickness loss must be significantly greater than the original thickness difference and the experimental error.

  5. Weathering is dominated by loss of thickness of the marble slab. This assumption is generally correct over long periods of time. However, the data reported here indicate early-stage expansion of some exposed surfaces.

  6. Surface recession is linear over time. This study documents nonlinear surface recession of tombstone surfaces.

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GSA Special Papers

Stone Decay in the Architectural Environment

Alice V. Turkington
Alice V. Turkington
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Geological Society of America
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Publication date:
January 01, 2005




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