Distinguishing palagonitized from pedogenically-altered basaltic Hawaiian tephra: mineralogical and geochemical criteria
Published:January 01, 2002
P. Schiffman, R. J. Southard, D. D. Eberl, J. L. Bishop, 2002. "Distinguishing palagonitized from pedogenically-altered basaltic Hawaiian tephra: mineralogical and geochemical criteria", Volcano–Ice Interaction on Earth and Mars, J. L. Smellie, M. G. Chapman
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Palagonitization is a common, but imperfectly defined process that greatly modifies the physical and chemical properties of glassy basaltic tephra deposited in subaquatic/subglacial environments on Earth and perhaps Mars. It also results in textures and mineralogies that are distinct from other forms of (mainly pedogenic) low temperature alteration. Specifically, the process of palagonitization (1) initially results in the formation of ‘palagonitized glass’, a quasi- or nano-crystalline, rind-like material that contains smectite, as well as lesser amounts of other clays (e.g. serpentine), and (2) eventually results in consolidation of tephra, mediated through the accretion of palagonitized glass and later-formed authigenic cements. Conversely, pedogenic weathering of glassy basaltic tephra is characterized by disaggregation of tephra, and formation of a wide range of pedogenic products, including layer silicates (although not primarily smectite), short-range-order aluminosilicates and oxyhydroxides, whose composition reflects the intensity of the weathering environment. These mineralogical and textural properties can be readily recognized through a variety of techniques including electron microscopy/microprobe analysis, reflectance spectroscopy, X-ray diffraction and soil chemistry. Analyses of samples collected from the summit regions of Kilauea and Mauna Kea volcanoes on the island of Hawaii are presented here in order to illustrate differences between palagonitization and pedogenic weathering of glassy basaltic tephra. In the young Hawaiian tephras studied, palagonitization has occurred in response to hydrothermal activity shortly after deposition. Although some, non-hydrothermally affected tephras may eventually become palagonitized, those that have been strongly desilicated by intense pedogenic weathering will probably never become palagonitized.
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Volcano–Ice Interaction on Earth and Mars
This volume focuses on magmas and cryospheres on Earth and Mars and is the first publication of its kind to combine a thematic set of contributions addressing the diverse range of volcano-ice interactions known or thought to occur on both planets. Understanding those interactions is a comparatively young scientific endeavour, yet it is vitally important for a fuller comprehension of how planets work as integrated systems. It is also topical since future volcanic eruptions on Earth may contribute to melting ice sheets and thus to global sea level rise.
Papers included here are likely to influence the choice of sites for future Mars missions in exobiologically important areas. On Earth, snow and ice are widespread, not only in extensive icecaps but also as alpine glaciers at high elevations in tropical regions. By contrast, Mars today is an arid volcanic planet with only small polar ice-caps although an abundance of water is believed to be trapped in the cryolithosphere. It is also thought that the planet may have sustained extensive frozen oceans early in its history. The presence of a former hydrosphere, a cryosphere and coincident volcanism thus make Mars the likeliest prospect for the first discoveries of life away from Earth. Much research has assumed that terrestrial volcano-ice systems are plausible analogues for putative Martian examples, but until mankind finally sets foot on Mars, there is no simple test for that assumption.
Our hope is that the knowledge presented here will stimulate research among planetary geologists in this exciting, rapidly expanding field for many years to come.