EGU General Assembly 2021
© Author(s) 2021. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Impacts of climatic seasonality on weathering of rock-cut structures at Lalibela, Ethiopia

Blen Taye and Heather Viles
Blen Taye and Heather Viles
  • University of Oxford, School of Geography, United Kingdom of Great Britain – England, Scotland, Wales (

Weathering of rock-cut structures exposed to the environment is strongly influenced by fluctuations in climatic variables. Both macro and microclimate data are needed to identify key weathering types and rates likely to affect rock-cut structures in a specific region. The aim of this paper is to study the macro and micro climatic conditions affecting the rock-cut churches in Lalibela, Ethiopia to determine how the climate influences weathering at this site. Macro climate data collected over a 26-year period and microclimate data monitored on the north, east, south and west walls at one of the churches in the Lalibela church complex (Bete Mariam) are used to make these assessments. Microclimate data was monitored during the long rains (Kiremt), short rains (Belg) and dry (Bega) seasons in 2018 and 2019. The results showed a high seasonal variation in macro climatic conditions like rainfall and ambient relative humidity. The micro climatic (rock surface) conditions also tended to vary seasonally. The diurnal range of rock surface temperature during Bega varied significantly depending on which cardinal directions the walls were facing, with south and west facing walls having high diurnal thermal ranges. The influence of aspect was less pronounced in Belg and Kiremt, but cloud cover played an important role in varying the range of diurnal thermal and humidity cycles from day to day during these seasons. These climate trends are likely to cause seasonal variations in wetting and drying cycles, deep wetting, increased time of wetness and thermal cycling. These wetting/drying and heating/cooling characteristics affect weathering processes. During Kiremt, biological weathering, salt weathering and clay swelling are more likely to occur than in Belg and Bega. High diurnal thermal ranges in Bega are likely to cause thermal fatigue in this season. This is the first paper to address the macro and micro climatic trends that influence rock weathering at the rock-cut churches in Lalibela. The results of this study also have implications for rock-cut structures in northern Ethiopia having similar environmental conditions as Lalibela.

How to cite: Taye, B. and Viles, H.: Impacts of climatic seasonality on weathering of rock-cut structures at Lalibela, Ethiopia, EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-16253,, 2021.

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