Rates of Weathering Rind Formation on Costa Rican Basalt

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Publication Date



Earth Sciences



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Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta


Weathering rind thicknesses were measured on ∼ 200 basaltic clasts collected from three regionally extensive alluvial fill terraces (Qt 1, Qt 2, and Qt 3) preserved along the Pacific coast of Costa Rica. Mass balance calculations suggest that conversion of unweathered basaltic core minerals (plagioclase and augite) to authigenic minerals in the porous rind (kaolinite, allophane, gibbsite, Fe oxyhydroxides) is iso-volumetric and Ti and Zr are relatively immobile. The hierarchy of cation mobility (Ca ≈ Na > K ≈ Mg > Si > Al > Fe ≈ P) is similar to other tropical weathering profiles and is indicative of differential rates of mineral weathering (anorthite > albite ≈ hypersthene > orthoclase ⪢ apatite). Alteration profiles across the cm-thick rinds document dissolution of plagioclase and augite and the growth of kaolinite, with subsequent dissolution of kaolinite and precipitation of gibbsite as weathering rinds age. The rate of weathering rind advance is evaluated using a diffusion-limited model which predicts a parabolic rate law for weathering rind thickness, rr, as a function of time, t(rr=κt), and an interface-limited model which predicts a linear rate law for weathering rind thickness as a function of time (rr = kappt). In these rate laws, κ is a diffusion parameter and kapp is an apparent rate constant. The rate of advance is best fit by the interface model.

Terrace exposures are confined to the lower reaches of streams draining the Pacific slope near the coast where the stream gradient is less than ∼3 m/km, and terrace deposition is influenced by eustatic sea level fluctuations. Geomorphological evidence is consistent with terrace deposition coincident with sea level maxima when the stream gradient would be lowest. Assigning the most weathered regionally extensive terrace Qt 1 (mean rind thickness 6.9 ± 0. 6cm) to oxygen isotope stage (OIS) 7 (ca. 240 ka), and assuming that at time = 0 rind thickness = 0, it is inferred that terrace Qt 2 (rr = 2.9 ± 0.1 cm) is coincident with stage 5e (ca. 125 ka) and that Qt 3 (rr = 0.9 ± 0.1 cm) is consistent with OIS 3 (ca. 37 ka). These assignments yield a value of kapp of 8.6 × 10−13 cm s−1 (R2 = 0.99). Only this value satisfies both the existing age controls and yields ages coincident with sea level maxima. Using this value, elemental weathering release fluxes across a weathering rind from Qt 2 range from 6.0 × 10−9 mol Si m−2 s−1 to 2.5 × 10−11 mol K m−2 s−1. The rate of rind advance for the Costa Rican terraces is 2.8 × 10−7 m yr−1. Basalt rind formation rates in lower temperature settings described in the literature are also consistent with interface-controlled weathering with an apparent activation energy of about 50 kJ mol−1. Rates of rind formation in Costa Rica are an order of magnitude slower than reported for global averages of soil formation rates.


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