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Surface evolution of salt-encrusted playas under extreme and continued dryness

Artieda, Octavio and Davila, Alfonso and Wierzchos, Jacek and Buhler, Peter B. and Rodríguez-Ochoa, Rafael and Pueyo, Juan and Ascaso, Carmen (2015) Surface evolution of salt-encrusted playas under extreme and continued dryness. Earth Surface Processes and Landforms, 40 (14). pp. 1939-1950. ISSN 0197-9337.

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Miocene continental saltpans are scattered in the Central Valley of the Atacama Desert, one of the driest regions on Earth. These evaporitic deposits are hydrologically inactive, and are detached from groundwater brines or aquifers. The surface of the saltpans, also known as salars, comprises desiccation polygons, commonly with nodular salt structures along their sides. The morphology and bulk mineralogy of salt polygons differs between and within salars, and the shape and internal structure of salt nodules varies between different polygon types. Based on field observation, and mineralogy and crystallography data, we generated a conceptual model for the genesis and evolution of these surface features, whereby rare rainfall events are responsible for the transformation of desiccation salt polygons and the initial formation of salt nodules along polygon borders. In addition, frequent, but less intense, deliquescence events further drive the evolution of salt nodules, resulting in a characteristic internal structure that includes laminations, and changes in porosity and crystal morphologies. As a result, and despite the extreme dryness, the surfaces of fossil salars are dynamic on timescales of several years to decades, in response to daily cycles in atmospheric moisture, and also to rare and meager rainfall events. We propose that fossil salars in the Atacama Desert represent an end stage in the evolution of evaporitic deposits under extreme and prolonged dryness.

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Buhler, Peter B.0000-0002-5247-7148
Additional Information:© 2015 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. Article first published online: 15 JUL 2015.
Subject Keywords:salar evolution; Atacama desert; halite; aridity; salt polygons
Issue or Number:14
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20151119-094520531
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Official Citation:Artieda, O., Davila, A., Wierzchos, J., Buhler, P., Rodríguez-Ochoa, R., Pueyo, J., and Ascaso, C. (2015) Surface evolution of salt-encrusted playas under extreme and continued dryness. Earth Surf. Process. Landforms, 40: 1939–1950. doi: 10.1002/esp.3771
Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:62228
Deposited By: Tony Diaz
Deposited On:19 Nov 2015 20:06
Last Modified:06 Nov 2019 20:28

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