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Investigating the role of anhydrous oxidative weathering on sedimentary rocks in the Transantarctic Mountains and implications for the modern weathering of sedimentary lithologies on Mars

Abstract : Alteration of the uppermost surfaces of geologic materials is a pervasive process on planetary surfaces that is dependent upon factors including parent composition and the environment under which alteration is occurring. While rapid and pervasive in hot and humid climates on Earth, chemical weathering of rock surfaces has also been found to dominate in some of Earth's coldest and driest landscapes as well. Specifically, surfaces dominated by resistant fine-grained igneous rocks in the Antarctic preserve evidence of oxidative weathering processes, which represent the initial immature surface alteration processes that stagnate due to the lack of available water and kinetics necessary for the production of more mature alteration phases. In this study, we test the hypothesis that oxidative weathering also dominates the surfaces of sedimentary rocks throughout the Antarctic. We investigated the chemistry and mineralogy of a suite of sedimentary rocks from the Transantarctic Mountains ranging from fine-grained tuffs to coarse-grained sandstones and conglomerates. Our results show that, like the previously studied fine-grained igneous rocks in the Antarctic, sedimentary rocks generally showed only minor chemical weathering signatures at their surfaces relative to their interiors. However, unlike the igneous rocks in this earlier study, the sedimentary rocks exhibited a wide variety of non-systematic differences between surface and interior compositions. This variability of surface weathering signatures is equally as complex as the physical properties and compositions inherently present within these different sedimentary lithologies. Based on these analyses, it is apparent that oxidative weathering products do not dominate the surfaces of sedimentary rocks throughout the Transantarctic Mountains, which instead exhibit a wide array of weathering signatures that are likely dependent on both lithological and environmental factors. Considering that sedimentary lithologies are widespread across a significant fraction of the martian surface, our results suggest that observed alteration signatures limited to the surfaces of martian sedimentary rocks are most likely to be minor and to vary as a result of the lithological properties of the specific rock unit and not as a result of the widespread influences of the modern cold and dry climatic conditions.
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M. Salvatore, K. Truitt, K. Roszell, N. Lanza, E. Rampe, et al.. Investigating the role of anhydrous oxidative weathering on sedimentary rocks in the Transantarctic Mountains and implications for the modern weathering of sedimentary lithologies on Mars. Icarus, Elsevier, 2019, 319, pp.669-684. ⟨10.1016/j.icarus.2018.10.007⟩. ⟨hal-02291633⟩

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