Loess and dust on Earth and Mars: particle generation by impact mechanisms

Ken O’Hara-Dhand 1 , Richard Taylor 2 , Ian Smalley 1 , David Krinsley 3 ,  and Claudio Vita-Finzi 4
  • 1 Giotto Loess Research Group, Nottingham Trent University, NG1, Nottingham
  • 2 Probability Research Group, 4 Abingdon Road, SW16 5QP, London, UK
  • 3 Department of Geology, University of Oregon, Eugene, OR, USA
  • 4 Mineralogy Department, Natural History Museum, SW7 OAP, London, UK


Impact between windblown quartz grains as a source of desert dust is consistent with laboratory abrasion experiments and has received some field confirmation in the Negev. The suggestion is that an important process on Mars now gains support from laboratory studies; even though their geochemical interpretation is controversial, they show that dust generation by impact is tenable even for quartz.

A simple mechanism for small dust production from sand seas is proposed; internal stresses can be mobilized by impact energy. A speculative mechanism (the andesite scenario) is proposed for fine particle production by particle impact on Mars. The internal stress range in terrestrial sand grains may vary, depending on the nature of the source rock, and this may influence particle production by impact processes.

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