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Rock breakdown on Earth and Mars

Wednesday, March 22, 2006
Heather
Viles (Oxford University Centre for the Environment)

Heather Viles and Bethany Ehlmann

All rocks break down as a result of a suite of weathering and erosional processes, producing a range of debris. However, rates of rock breakdown vary hugely according to environment, process and rock characteristics and our scientific knowledge of rates and types of breakdown is surprisingly limited. Understanding the style and rate of basalt breakdown is important for investigating key questions on both Earth and Mars. On Earth, for example, basalt weathering provides one important control on the long term carbon cycle. On Mars, surface features on basalt boulders visible on rover imagery may be diagnostic of individual processes - and thus provide vital evidence for environmental histories. In this seminar we report on ongoing investigations of basalt breakdown on both Earth and Mars and identify key questions for future research.

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