Deposition and early diagenesis of playa glauberite in the Karinga Creek drainage system, Northern Territory, Australia

A. V. Arakel*, A. Cohen

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

    12 Citations (Scopus)

    Abstract

    Glauberite [Na2Ca(SO4)2], in the form of discrete crystals, nodules and lenses, represents the second most common sulphate mineral type (after gypsum) in the chain of modern playa lakes located in the Karinga Creek drainage system, Northern Territory. These modern glauberite deposits exhibit textures and fabrics which reflect both syndeposition with gypsum within the playa phreatic zone, and early diagenetic replacement of host gypsite in the playa vadose zone. Because the distribution of hydrological zones in individual playa lakes vary significantly, the extent of glauberite facies development is highly irregular. Factors controlling glauberite deposition include the nature and extent of groundwater discharge from local and regional aquifers, playa surface evaporation rates, porewater geochemistry and the depth to basal aquicludes. Geochemical and petrographic evidence indicate that the paragenesis of sulphate minerals in the playa lakes of the study area is primarily dictated by the solubility of gypsum, which in turn reflects the extent of dilution and concentration of playa porewaters. On a regional scale, brine dilution and concentration can be related to seasonal and longer-term groundwater recharge-discharge patterns; but, on a local scale, the proximity to springs and ephemeral seepage creeks emanating from local calcrete aquifers is the dominating influence. Hence, a thorough knowledge of groundwater hydrodynamics, particularly the recharge-discharge pattern in playa-marginal areas, must be an essential part of any detailed assessment of the role of depositional and early diagenetic processes in the genesis of glauberite facies in similar arid drainage basins. The close relationship between glauberite facies development and the playa groundwater level has significant implications for interpretations of variation in the water table and other environmental conditions in the shallowing-upwards sequences of ancient lacustrine deposits. The presence of lacustrine glauberite facies may also mark a transition from depositional to early diagenetic evolution of the basinal sulphate mineral facies.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)41-59
    Number of pages19
    JournalSedimentary Geology
    Volume70
    Issue number1
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 1991

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