Carbonates and Evaporites

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Karst in evaporite rocks of the United States



Evaporites are the most soluble of common rocks; they are dissolved readily to form the same range of karst features that typically are found in limestones and dolomites. Evaporites, including gypsum (or anhydrite) and salt, are present in 32 of the 48 contiguous United States, and they underlie about 35–40% of the land area. Evaporite outcrops typically contain sinkholes, caves, disappearing streams, and springs. Other evidence of active karst in evaporites includes surface-collapse features and saline springs or saline plumes that result from dissolution of salt. Many evaporites, including some in the deeper subsurface, also contain evidence of paleokarst that is no longer active; this evidence includes dissolution breccias, breccia pipes, slumped beds, and collapse structures. Evaporites occur in 24 separate structural basins or geographic districts in the United States, and either local or extensive evaporite karst is known in almost all of these basins or districts. Human activities also have caused development of evaporite karst, primarily in salt deposits. Boreholes or underground mines may enable (either intentionally or inadvertently) unsaturated water to flow through or against salt deposits, thus allowing development of small to large dissolution cavities. If the dissolution cavity is large enough and shallow enough, successive roof failures can cause land subsidence or catastrophic collapse. Evaporite karst, both natural and human-induced, is far more prevalent than commonly believed.


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© Springer 2002

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Oklahoma Geological SurveyNormanU.S.A.

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