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Quantifying chemical weathering intensity and trace element release from two contrasting basalt profiles, Deccan Traps, India

Babechuk, M. G.; Widdowson, M.; Kamber, B. S.


M. G. Babechuk

B. S. Kamber


Weathering profiles developed on basalt substrate contain information relevant to climate, atmospheric composition and evolution, nutrient release into the hydrosphere, and understanding Martian regolith. In this study, the chemical compositions of two profiles developed on Deccan Trap basalt are examined. One is sub-Recent and has only progressed to a moderate degree of alteration (Chhindwara profile), whereas the other is ancient (Paleocene) and the degree of alteration is extreme (Bidar laterite). In an attempt to better quantify the chemical changes during incipient to intermediate weathering of mafic substrates, a new index is proposed: the mafic index of alteration (MIA). Similar to the chemical index of alteration (CIA), the MIA quantifies the net loss of the mobile major elements (Ca, Mg, Na, K ± Fe) relative to the immobile major elements (Al ± Fe). The redox-dependent weathering behaviour of Fe is factored into two separate arrangements of the MIA that apply to oxidative [MIA(O)] or reduced [MIA(R)] weathering. The MIA can be visualised in a variety of ternary diagrams in the Al–Fe–Mg–Ca–Na–K system. To chemically quantify the stages of advanced to extreme weathering, at which the MIA and CIA are ineffective, the SiO2 to (Al2O3 + Fe2O3) mass ratio, based on the established Si–Al–Fe (SAF) ‘laterite’ ternary diagram, is used; we propose that this ratio be referred to as the ‘index of lateritisation’ (IOL). Major element chemical variations, as expressed by weathering indices, are used to relate the extent of weathering with the behaviour of trace elements (alkali, alkaline earth, rare earth, and Nb) in the profiles. During the early stages of basalt weathering, the mobile trace elements (Sr, Be, Li) are anti-correlated with the chemical weathering indices and thus released during these stages. By contrast, the monovalent elements (K, Rb, Cs, Tl), excluding Na and Li, appear to be associated with the pedogenetic clay minerals. Of these elements, those with the most similar ionic radii are closely related in their weathering behaviour. Fractionation of the REE (Sm/Nd, Eu/Eu*, Ce/Ce*) is evident during weathering of the basalt. The loss of Eu is linked with that of Sr, Ca, and Na and thus associated with plagioclase dissolution during the stages of incipient to intermediate weathering. The fractionation of Sm/Nd suggests that basaltic weathering products may not always preserve their parent rock ratio and, consequently, their Nd isotope composition over time. Finally, weathering in the sub-Recent profile is shown to have progressed across two lava flows, whose morphology initially controlled the extent of weathering. Certain compositional variations in the original flows (e.g., immobile element ratios) are preserved through the effects of chemical weathering and have the potential to influence mass balance calculations across the entire profile.


Babechuk, M. G., Widdowson, M., & Kamber, B. S. (2014). Quantifying chemical weathering intensity and trace element release from two contrasting basalt profiles, Deccan Traps, India. Chemical Geology, 363, 56-75.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Oct 18, 2013
Online Publication Date Oct 30, 2013
Publication Date Jan 10, 2014
Deposit Date May 17, 2016
Publicly Available Date May 17, 2016
Journal Chemical geology
Print ISSN 0009-2541
Publisher Elsevier
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 363
Pages 56-75
Keywords Deccan traps, Weathering index, Mafic index of alteration, Index of lateritisation, Sm/Nd, Europium anomaly
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Additional Information This article is maintained by: Elsevier; Article Title: Quantifying chemical weathering intensity and trace element release from two contrasting basalt profiles, Deccan Traps, India; Journal Title: Chemical Geology; CrossRef DOI link to publisher maintained version:; Content Type: article; Copyright: Copyright © 2013 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.


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