Rock cycle

The rock cycle. Legend: 1 = magma; 2 = crystallisation (freezing of rock); 3 = igneous rocks; 4 = erosion; 5 = sedimentation; 6 = sediments and sedimentary rocks; 7 = tectonic burial and metamorphism; 8 = metamorphic rocks; 9 = melting.

The rock cycle is a fundamental concept in geology that describes the dynamic transitions through geologic time among the three main rock types: sedimentary, metamorphic, and igneous. As the diagram to the right illustrates, each type of rock is altered or destroyed when it is forced out of its equilibrium conditions. An igneous rock such as basalt may break down and dissolve when exposed to the atmosphere, or melt as it is subducted under a continent. Due to the driving forces of the rock cycle, plate tectonics and the water cycle, rocks do not remain in equilibrium and are forced to change as they encounter new environments. The rock cycle is an illustration that explains how the 3 rock types are related to each other and how processes change from one type to another over time.

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