Chemical weathering signatures from Mt. Achernar Moraine, Central Transantarctic Mountains I: Subglacial sediments compared with underlying rock

Graly, Joseph, Licht, Kathy J., Bader, Nicole A. and Bish, David L. (2020) Chemical weathering signatures from Mt. Achernar Moraine, Central Transantarctic Mountains I: Subglacial sediments compared with underlying rock. Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta, 283. pp. 149-166. ISSN 0016-7037

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In order to determine chemical weathering rates on the subglacial land surface of Antarctica, we compare the composition and mineralogy of freshly emerging fine sediments to that of the underlying bedrock, as represented by glacially derived cobble-sized clasts. Samples were collected from Mt. Achernar Moraine, a large blue ice moraine, where subglacial material naturally emerges through sublimation of the surrounding ice. Both rocks and sediments were analyzed for total elemental composition, mineral abundance by X-ray diffraction, and by sequential extractions targeting chemical weathering products. The fine sediment fraction is significantly enriched in chemical weathering products and depleted in primary minerals compared with the cobble clasts. The alteration pathways consist primarily of the development of smectite, kaolinite, carbonate minerals, and amorphous material. Extensive Fe oxidation is evidenced by a decline in magnetic susceptibility and by increases in extractable Fe. If we assume the only input into the subglacial system is the water and ice-trapped gas supplied by basal melt, the net chemical alteration is explained through oxidation of organic matter equal to ∼0.7% of the bedrock mass and subsequent carbonation weathering. The underlying sedimentary rock is sufficiently rich in organic matter for this pathway to be plausible. For the O2 that is oxidizing organic matter to be supplied by basal meltwater, water fluxes would need to be three orders of magnitude larger than sediment fluxes. Independent models of basal melt and sediment transport at our field site confirm that such a difference between water and sediment flux is likely at the study site. The rate of subglacial carbonation weathering inferred from the Mt. Achernar Moraine site may be comparable to that found in high latitude subaerial environments. If Mt. Achernar Moraine is typical of other Antarctic sites, the subglacial land surface of Antarctica does play a role in global geochemical cycling.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: Antarctica, Chemical Weathering, Clay Minerals, Subglacial Processes, Geochemical Cycles
Subjects: F600 Geology
F800 Physical and Terrestrial Geographical and Environmental Sciences
Department: Faculties > Engineering and Environment > Geography and Environmental Sciences
Depositing User: Elena Carlaw
Date Deposited: 15 Jul 2020 08:45
Last Modified: 31 Jul 2021 11:01

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