Nanoscale observations support the importance of chemical processes in rock decay and rock coating development in cold climates

Ronald I. Dorn, David H. Krinsley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Conventional scholarship long held that rock fracturing from physical processes dominates over chemical rock decay processes in cold climates. The paradigm of the supremacy of cold-climate shattering was questioned by Rapp’s discovery (1960) that the flux of dissolved solids leaving a Kärkevagge, Swedish Lapland, watershed exceeded physical denudation processes. Many others since have gone on to document the importance of chemical rock decay in all cold climate landscapes, using a wide variety of analytical approaches. This burgeoning scholarship, however, has only generated a few nanoscale studies. Thus, this paper’s purpose rests in an exploration of the potential for nanoscale research to better understand chemical processes operating on rock surfaces in cold climates. Samples from several Antarctica locations, Greenland, the Tibetan Plateau, and high altitude tropical and mid-latitude mountains all illustrate ubiquitous evidence of chemical decay at the nanoscale, even though the surficial appearance of each landscape is dominated by “bare fresh rock.” With the growing abundance of focused ion beam (FIB) instruments facilitating sample preparation, the hope is that that future rock decay researchers studying cold climates will add nanoscale microscopy to their bag of tools.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number121
JournalGeosciences (Switzerland)
Volume9
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Mar 2019

Keywords

  • Antarctica
  • Anthropocene
  • Arctic
  • Biological weathering
  • Chemical weathering
  • Desert varnish
  • Frost weathering
  • Physical weathering
  • Rock coatings
  • Rock varnish

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Earth and Planetary Sciences(all)

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