Enigmatic Efflorescence in Kärkevagge, Swedish Lapland: The Key to Chemical Weathering?
The second marvel to catch the eye of the visitor to Kärkevagge, after the impressive boulder deposit on the floor of the valley, is the series of prominent white stripes running down the valley’s dark cliffs. Streams and springs descending the eastern flank of Kärkevagge
are marked by the presence of whitish coatings on the black rock surfaces and on cobbles lining ephemeral waterways. These were referred to as ‘lime crusts’ by early investigators, but they are not reactive to HCl. We believe that they are a precipitate resulting from acid attack
on the local rocks. Pyrite is common in many of the rocks in the valley and its oxidation produces sulfuric acid. As the dissolved mineral elements are carried in the drainage water, efflorescence forms on the surfaces where the water flows due to evaporation or to changes in temperature.
The exact mineralogy of the white crusts is unknown, but the crusts are dominated by Al, S, and O, and in some cases by Ca, depending on the substrate and local conditions. Gypsum, illite, and chlorite have been identified by X–ray diffraction of some scrapings of white–coated
rocks. However, we believe that some unidentified oxy–hydroxy aluminum sulfates make up the bulk of the precipitates.