Accumulation mechanisms and the weathering of Antarctic equilibrated ordinary chondrites

by Benoit, P. H.; Sears, D. W. G.

Induced thermoluminescence (TL) is used to quantitatively evaluate the degree of weathering of meteorites found in Antarctica. We find a weak correlation between TL sensitivity and descriptions of weathering in hand specimens, the highly weathered meteorites having lower TL sensitivity than unweathered meteorites. Analysis of samples taken throughout large meteorites shows that the heterogeneity in TL sensitivity within meteorite finds is not large relative to the range exhibited by different weathered meteorites. The TL sensitivity values can be restored by minimal acid washing, suggesting the lower TL sensitivities of weathered meteorites reflects thin weathering rims on mineral grains or coating of these grains by iron oxides produced by hydration and oxidation of metal and sulfides. Small meteorites may tend to be more highly weathered than large meteorites at the Allan Hills ice fields. We find that meteorite fragments >150 g may take up to 300,000 years to reach the highest degrees of weathering, while meteorites <150 g require <40,000 years. However, at other fields, local environmental conditions and variability in terrestrial history are more important in determining weathering than size alone, Weathering correlates poorly with surface exposure duration, presumably because weathering occurs primarily during interglacial periods. The Allan Hills locality has served as a fairly stable surface over the last 100,000 years or so and has efficiently preserved both small and large meteorites. Meteorites from Lewis Cliff, however, have experienced extensive weathering, probably because of increased surface melt water from nearby outcrops. Meteorites from the Elephant Moraine locality tend to exhibit only minor degrees of weathering, but small meteorites are less weathered than large meteorites, which we suggest is due to the loss of small meteorites by aeolian transport.

Journal of Geophysical Research-Planets
Start Page
2169-9100; 2169-9097