During transport, the shape and outline of clasts continue to evolve as they are carried. Grains transported by currents such as wind, rivers, or waves, can move as suspended load, by saltation (jumping), and traction with the ground/bed. Bouncing, jumping, and drag of the grains produces friction between grains and with the ground. This erodes grains, progressively removing sharp edges in favor of more rounded, smoothed shapes. Roundness (or angularity) is, hence, a measure of how much sediments have been transported by a current. Roundness is different from sphericity, which is, on the other hand, a measure of the shape of a clast. The external outline of a clast can be:
– very angular: sharp edges separated by deep incisions
– angular: sharp edges separated by small incisions
– sub-angular: incipient rounding of the most prominent edges
– sub-rounded: rounded edges separated by incisions
– rounded: well smoothed edges
– well rounded: generally convex shape
Roundness is linked to the intensity and type of transport. In general, protracted transport produces rounded shapes. Some processes, like waves and rivers, can round grains very well, while others, like wind, are not so efficient. Gravity flows, such as debris flow, and glaciers transport materials in mass, leaving angular shapes intact. The degree of rounding also depends on composition: in sandstones, quartz grains, with higher hardness, tend to maintain a more angular shape compared to feldspars. High-energy transport can cause textural inversion, which happens when a rounded grain is broken to angular fragments.
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