3.3 - Climate's Effect on Soil Formation
Western to Eastern U.S.
Generally, as one moves from west to east in the U.S., the soil profile thickness becomes greater. In the western U.S., lack of moisture and high temperatures promote evaporation and thus CaCO3(lime) accumulation near the surface and throughout the soil profile, making soil pH higher. Moving eastward, soils receive more precipitation, which promotes CaCO3 dissolution and movement downward into the subsurface, where it reprecipitates (reforms as a solid). This removal of CaCO3by water reduces the pH of the soil profile, so eastern soil surfaces will have a lower pH, while subsoil pH will be higher.
Concurrently, an increase in moisture promotes more plant and microbial growth. Plants, especially those in the Midwest, die every year. Plant litter falls to the soil surface where it is decomposed by microorganisms and turned into humus (soil organic matter). We see humus content of soils increase as we move from west to east, with the greatest amount of humus accumulation generally in the eastern United States. This accumulation of humus generally decreases soil pH.
Northern to Southern U.S.
Generally, as one moves from the northern to southern U.S., soil temperatures increase. This increase causes microorganism activity to increase, which speeds up the breakdown of humus. Thus, we generally observe more humus accumulation in cooler areas and less accumulation in hotter areas.