Intensity and duration of chemical weathering: An example from soil clays of the southeastern Koolau Mountains, Oahu, Hawaii

Special Paper of the Geological Society of America
By: , and 

Links

Abstract

Orographic precipitation on the southern flank of the southeastern Koolau Mountains produces a pronounced precipitation gradient. The corresponding gradient in the intensity of the chemical weathering environment provides an opportunity to address the effects of varying chemical weathering intensity on the composition of clay-size weathering products in soils developed on basalt. In addition, little-modified remnants of the constructional surface of the Koolau Volcano, isolated by stream dissection, remain as facets on the southern ends of the parallel ridges of the study area. By comparing clay mineralogy of soils developed on these older geomorphic surfaces with those developed on the younger sharp-crested ridges and steep side slopes, the effects of weathering duration on clay mineralogy can also be addressed.

Soil clays in this part of the Koolau Mountains are mineralogically complex; principal phases include smectite, kaolinite, and halloysite, but pure end member phases are uncommon. Rather, most phases contain some amount of mixed layering. Smectite may contain small (<5%) amounts of randomly interstratified halloysite. Similarly, kaolinite commonly contains a small proportion of halloysite interlayers. A complex halloysitic phase shows evidence of interstratification with both smectite and kaolinite. Nonphyllosilicates found in the clay fraction include gibbsite, goethite, rare quartz, and perhaps cristobalite.

The gradient in precipitation is reflected in soil clay mineralogy by varying proportions of dominantly smectitic, kaolinitic, and halloysitic phases. In regions of relatively low precipitation (<2,000 mm/yr), soils are dominated by the smectitic and halloysitic phases. With increased precipitation (as much as ∼4,000 mm/yr), kaolinitic and halloysitic phases become the dominant clay minerals, and goethite and gibbsite become increasingly abundant.

Older soils developed on geomorphic surfaces representing the original constructional surface of Koolau Volcano are markedly more leached than those from younger landscapes in the same precipitation regime. Although smectite may be present, kaolinite is the dominant phase, and accumulations of Fe and Ti occur in the uppermost soil levels. Enrichment of Zr and Ti in these soils, as compared to concentrations in the original basaltic parent material, indicates that as much as 75% of the parent material has been lost. Thus weathering duration may affect soil clay composition in the same way as weathering intensity.

Because smectite and halloysite are expandable clay minerals, their presence in soils may decrease slope stability and influence the nature of slope processes. Soil avalanches occur on steep slopes throughout the study area, whereas slow-moving landslides appear to be restricted to gentler slopes in drier parts of the study area where smectite is abundant. The clay mineralogy of soils thus appears to influence the nature of slope processes in the southeastern Koolau Mountains.

Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Intensity and duration of chemical weathering: An example from soil clays of the southeastern Koolau Mountains, Oahu, Hawaii
Series title Special Paper of the Geological Society of America
DOI 10.1130/SPE284-p147
Volume 284
Year Published 1993
Language English
Publisher Geological Society of America
Description 24 p.
First page 147
Last page 170