Acidic weathering of basalt and basaltic glass: 1. Near-infrared spectra, thermal infrared spectra, and implications for Mars

Briony H N Horgan, Rebecca J. Smith, Edward A. Cloutis, Paul Mann, Philip Christensen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


Acid-leached rinds and coatings occur in volcanic environments on Earth and have been identified using orbital spectroscopy on Mars, but their development is poorly understood. We simulated long-term open-system acidic weathering in a laboratory by repeatedly rinsing and submerging crystalline and glassy basalts in pH ~ 1 and pH ~ 3 acidic solutions for 213 days and compared their visible/near-infrared (0.3–2.5 µm) and thermal infrared (5–50 µm) spectral characteristics to their microscopic physical and chemical properties from scanning electron microscopy (SEM). We find that while alteration at moderately low pH (~3) can produce mineral precipitates from solution, it has very little spectral or physical effect on the underlying parent material. In contrast, alteration at very low pH (~1) results in clear silica spectral signatures for all crystalline samples while glasses exhibit strong blue concave-up near-infrared slopes. SEM indicates that these spectral differences correspond to different modes of alteration. In glass, alteration occurs only at the surface and produces a silica-enriched leached rind, while in more crystalline samples, alteration penetrates the interior to cause dissolution and replacement by silica. We confirm that glass is more stable than crystalline basalt under long-term acidic leaching, suggesting that glass could be enriched and common in terrains on Mars that have been exposed to acidic weathering. Leached glasses are consistent with both OMEGA and Thermal Emission Spectrometer (TES) spectra of the Martian northern lowlands and may contribute to the high-silica phases detected globally in TES Surface Type 2. Thus, both glass-rich deposits and acidic weathering may have been widespread on Mars.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)172-202
Number of pages31
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Planets
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2017


  • Mars
  • acid
  • alteration
  • spectroscopy
  • weathering

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geochemistry and Petrology
  • Geophysics
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Space and Planetary Science


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