Roundness (geology)

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For other uses, see Roundness.

Roundness is the degree of smoothing due to abrasion of sedimentary particles. It is expressed as the ratio of the average radius of curvature of the edges or corners to the radius of curvature of the maximum inscribed sphere.

Measure of roundness[edit]

Schematic representation of difference in grain shape. Two parameters are shown: sphericity (vertical) and rounding (horizontal).

Rounding, roundness or angularity are terms used to describe the shape of the corners on a particle (or clast) of sediment.[1] Such a particle may be a grain of sand, a pebble, cobble or boulder. Although roundness can be numerically quantified, for practical reasons geologists typically use a simple visual chart with up to six categories of roundness:

  • Very angular: corners sharp and jagged
  • Angular
  • Sub-angular
  • Sub-rounded
  • Rounded
  • Well-rounded: corners completely rounded

Rounding of sediment particles can indicate the distance and time involved in the transportation of the sediment from the source area to where it is deposited.

Speed of rounding will depend on composition, hardness and mineral cleavage. For example, a soft claystone pebble will obviously round much faster, and over a shorter distance of transport, than a more resistant quartz pebble. The rate of rounding is also affected by the grain size and energy conditions.


Abrasion occurs in natural environments such as beaches, sand dunes, river or stream beds by the action of current flow, wave impact, glacial action, wind, gravitational creep and other erosive agents.

Paleogeographic value of determining the degree of roundness of clastic material[edit]

Roundness is an important indicator of the genetic affiliation of a clastic rock. The degree of roundness points to the range and mode of transport of clastic material, and can also serve as a search criterion in mineral exploration, especially for placer deposits.

Alluvial debris in major rivers tend to exhibit a high degree of roundness. Alluvium from small rivers is less rounded. Deposits of ephemeral streams exhibit little rounding with angular clasts.

Clast rounding in non-sedimentary environments[edit]

Pebble dikes are dikelike bodies found in intrusive environments which contain variably rounded fragments. The clasts originate in deeper formations and have been brought up by diatreme or intrusive breccias. The fragments have been rounded due to either milling action or corrosion by hydrothermal fluids.[2][3] The ore deposits of Tintic mining district, Utah; Ouray, Colorado; Silver Bell; and Bisbee, Arizona and the Kiruna iron deposit in Sweden contain these pebble dikes.[3]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Folk, R.L. (1965). Petrology of Sedimentary Rocks. Hemphill. 
  2. ^ Bates, Robert L. and Julia A. Jackson, eds., Dictionary of geological terms, Anchor, 3rd ed. 1984, p. 372 ISBN 978-0-385-18101-3
  3. ^ a b Guilbert, John M. and Charles F. Park, Jr., The Geology of Ore Deposits, Freeman, 1986, pp.83-85 ISBN 0-7167-1456-6
  • Mountain Encyclopedia. - Moscow: Soviet Encyclopedia, 1987. - Vol. 3 - S. 553.
  • Geological dictionary . - M. : Nedra, 1978. - T. 2. - S. 29.
  • Kulik, NA, Postnov AV Geology, petrography and mineralogy in archaeological research . - Methods of Earth and Man in archaeological research : Comprehensive Training Manual. - Novosibirsk: Novosibirsk State University, Institute of Archaeology and Ethnography SB RAS, 2010. - S. 39-96.
  • Alexei Rudoy. "Окатанность обломочных горных пород". Knol. Retrieved 2011-01-30.