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Insights into the formation of rock varnish in prevailing dusty regions

AutorAulinas, M.; García-Vallés, M.; Fernandez-Turiel, J. L. ; Gimeno, D.; Saavedra Alonso, Julio ; Gisbert Pinto, G.
Fecha de publicación2015
EditorJohn Wiley & Sons
CitaciónEarth Surface Processes and Landforms 40: 447- 458 (2015)
Resumen© 2014 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. The characteristics of rock varnish from the Campo de Piedra Pomez (CPP, Andes Argentina) provides new insights into the development of rock varnish under severe dusty conditions. The CPP varnish has been analysed using SEM-EDAX and Raman techniques. The rock coating is tens of microns in thickness and under the microscope shows a micro to cryptocrystalline appearance and a general granular texture. Silica (quartz, cristobalite and amorphous silica) is the main phase forming these coverings followed by Al, K and Na compounds. Minor Fe oxides and Mn oxides are the source for the orange (Fe) and brown (Fe and Mn) hues of the coating. The results obtained for the CPP coating show that desert varnish developed under dusty circumstances does not have the appearance of typical rock varnish. Textural characteristics include high crystallinity and granular arrangement of the components. Moreover the absence of typical microlaminations is related to the presence of aeolian mineral grains which inhibit their development. The main mechanism of formation of rock varnish under such environmental circumstances is the direct incorporation of aeolian mineral grains into the varnish. However, other physicochemical processes are also required to explain the formation of varnish components such as amorphous silica or iron oxides phases. Although the development of the desert varnish may act as a protector of the underlying pyroclastic rock, the extreme and persistent windy conditions in the CPP field are high enough to weather and erode not only the rock coating but also the original ignimbrite. As other warm desert sites on Earth, the CPP area can also be considered as possible terrestrial analogue to Mars. Some environmental attributes might be similar to those expected on the Martian surface and thus, textural similarities between the CPP varnish and the rock varnish-like coating of Mars are likely.
Identificadoresdoi: 10.1002/esp.3644
issn: 1096-9837
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