The Rock Cycle chart below shows each type of rock connected by
arrows. The arrows point from one rock form to a new form that it can
become over time and exposure.
The Rock Cycle describes the process the earth uses to recycle rocks. Yes, even rocks are recycled.
There are three basic types of rocks: igneous, metamorphic, and sedimentary. The interesting part of knowing these names is that any one of the three types of rock can be changed into one of the other types.
The names of the rock types refer to the way the rocks are formed. Igneous rocks are formed from fiery molten magma. Metamorphic rocks form under intense heat and pressure. Sedimentary rocks form by weathering.
Click on the picture if you want to learn more about that type of rock. For details on how rocks change from one form to another, click on the arrow. You’ll read about how rocks can change from one form to another.
Let’s take a closer look at each type.
Igneous rocks are formed of magma, the molten form of the earth’s mantle layer. Igneous rocks can form above ground as lava spewing from volcanoes. But igneous rocks can also form below the surface. Pockets of magma get stuck in layers of the earth. As they get closer and closer to the surface, the magma slowly cools. Granite is an igneous rock that formed from a slow-cooling pocket of magma.
Sedimentary rocks form from small weathered particles of other rocks or the weathered shells of sea animals. Wind and rain beating on the faces of exposed rock tend to wear off particles that are blown or washed to a new location. When sea creatures die, the shells settle on the bottom of the ocean. As the sediments pile up, they press together to form Sedimentary rock.
Metamorphic Rocks form under intense heat and pressure. Metamorphic rocks start out as igneous rocks, sedimentary rocks or other types of metamorphic rocks, but through heat or pressure, change characteristics such as sheen, tightness of grain and hardness.
Rocks continually change form. What started out as sedimentary rock may change to metamorphic and, with time and weathering, change back to sedimentary.