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The Weathering of Granodiorite Porphyry in the Thiel Mountains, Inland Antarctica

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The weathering of granodiorite porphyry is examined in the extremely cold and dry environment of the inland part of Antarctica. Weathering features include granular disintegration, rock varnish, and sheeting. Sheeting has gradually proceeded since the exposing of the nunatak, but the other types of weathering have not actively advanced in recent times.

Granular disintegration primarily comprises the release of individual crystals. The mechanism of this release is that cracks are created along crystal boundaries and cleavages in phenocrysts mainly due to differential thermal expansion. Plagioclase and hypersthene are released more readily than quartz. Disintegration of plagioclase has produced many prism-shaped holes, 0.5 to 2.0 mm in length, while fine-grained quartz crystals, 0.05 to 0.1 mm in diameter, are incidentally released without cracking.

The reddish brown (10R4/4) rock varnishes result from oxidation and consist of limonite, which fills cracks and penetrates into crystals. Ferrous iron in hypersthene, biotite, ilmenite and magnetite is transformed into limonite by oxidation. Manganese is not found in the varnishes. Sulfur, which is important for oxidation and which may have originated from adhered snow, is concentrated on the surface of the rock.

Sheeting has precipitated rock falls, and has gradually formed a gray mosaic on the varnished wall. The sheeting was caused by gravitational body force, which is internal stress of the rock body due to the mass of the overburden.

Keywords: Antarctica; granular disintegration; rock varnish; sheeting

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Geological Survey of Hokkaido, Sapporo, Japan, 2: Water and Environmental Research Center, University of Alaska, Fairbanks, Alaska, USA

Publication date: April 1, 2000


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