Hypogene Speleogenesis in the Guadalupe Mountains, New Mexico and Texas, USA


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August 2017


The Guadalupe Mountains consist of an uplift of Permian carbonate shelf deposits in a semiarid landscape. A variety of speleogenetic processes, mostly hypogene, have made them one of the world’s best-known cave regions. The most notable caves are Carlsbad Cavern, which contains the largest known cave room in the USA, and Lechuguilla Cave, now the world’s 7th longest. Because the caves are no longer active, there was early confusion about their origin. This was resolved when long-dormant sulfuric acid processes were recognized, with H2S supplied by nearby oil fields. Potassium-argon dating of the by-product mineral alunite in the Guadalupes indicates speleogenetic ages from 12 to 4 million years, decreasing with lower elevation. Caves show abundant evidence for subaerial corrosion, both by sulfuric acid and carbonic acid in water films. Many seemingly phreatic features have resulted from this subaerial process. Microbial alteration of bedrock has contributed to weathering. There is evidence that isolated caves of greater age, lined by large scalenohedral calcite, were formed by supercritical CO2 in deep thermal water.


Hypogene, Hypogene Speleogenesis, Guadalupe Mountains, New Mexico, Texas, Usa

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