Abstract

Most karst terranes develop slowly on static limestone substrates as part of the global hydrological cycle. Here we introduce the novel concept of a karst morphology developing very rapidly on a more soluble substrate of salt (NaCl) that is moving through its own global cycle. We open with a reminder of karst features and processes in limestone. We then illustrate the global salt cycle using the 180 or so extrusions of Hormoz salt in the Zagros Mountains of Iran. After describing the geology of an example, we consider how it fits into the evolution of salt extrusions. This example, Konarsiah, was chosen for its simple hydrology. Konarsiah is covered by residual soils of the insoluble components that remain in place as the Hormoz salt is dissolved. Dolines in the surface of these soils enlarge and the soils thicken as the moving salt dissolves. The long-term rate of salt dissolution and soil production on Konarsiah are estimated using traditional methods. The calculated age of the thickest, most distal soil is used to constrain the average rate at which the underlying salt flows downslope after extruding from two vents. The average velocities constrained for salt flow are lower than rates of displacement of markers near the summit of Konarsiah measured at irregular intervals over five years. Salt extruding from recently truncated diapirs near the arid south coast of Iran exhibit all the features seen in classical karst terranes. In the more humid mountains inland, vegetated soils protect salt extrusions like Konarsiah from erosion and limit their salt karst features. Soil covers also probably even out salt flow velocities. Salt extrusions advance when such protective covers grow and thicken in humid conditions. They retreat when such protection is lost to erosion in drier conditions. These external signs complement internal recumbent folds in extruded salt that signal intervals of faster salt flow when wet than dry. They also add to the features that render salt extrusions records of climate change.

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