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W


watershed
See drainage basin.
water table
The surface that lies between the zone of aeration and the underlying zone of saturation.
wave-cut bench
A relatively level surface formed when waves erode the base of a cliff, causing the overlying rock to fall into the surf. A wave-cut bench stands above the water and extends seaward from what remains of the cliff.
wave refraction
The process by which a wave approaching the shore changes direction due to slowing of those parts of the wave that enter shallow water first, causing a sharp decrease in the angle at which the wave approaches until the wave is almost parallel to the coast.
weathering
The process by which exposure to atmospheric agents, such as air or moisture, causes rocks and minerals to break down. This process takes place at or near the Earth's surface. Weathering entails little or no movement of the material that it loosens from the rocks and minerals. See also erosion.
welded tuff
A volcanic igneous rock that forms when still-warm tephra accumulates at the Earth's surface. Because the particles are still warm and soft, they can weld together under the weight of overlying deposits, forming a hard rock.
wetland
A lake, marsh, or swamp that supports wildlife and replenishes the groundwater system.
wind abrasion
The process by which wind erodes bedrock through contact between the bedrock and rock particles carried by the wind.

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