October Puzzler Answer: Salt Glaciers in Xinjiang

November 6th, 2015 by Adam Voiland

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Congratulations to Shadab Raza, a geologist with Oil and Natural Gas Corporation Limited, for being the first reader to decipher the location of our October Puzzler, Xinjiang in western China. Jonathan Aul followed up later in the day with the exact coordinates. “Roughly 41.6 N, 80.7 E, approximately 10-15 km south of Bozidunxiang, Wensu, Aksu, Xinjiang Province, China.”

In researching the area, I become most interested in the distinctive salt glaciers, though Raza pointed out something that I completely missed: there appears to be a coal mine just to the west of one of the salt glaciers. I am not sure if it is the same mine shown in our image, but Raza also noted that an Aksu coal mine has been in the news recently.

If you are interested in learning more about salt glaciers, read our October 25 Image of the Day and click through the references for more information. University of Leeds geologist Alex Webb was kind enough to share several photographs of the salt glaciers that he took during a research trip. I have posted a few of them below with his commentary.

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Walking around on a the Awate salt glacier. Yellow bits in the foreground are gypsum concentrations. Courtesy of Alex Webb (University of Leeds).

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Salt flow at the surface is largely controlled by dissolution creep, aided by rain water. Here, some patches of crystalline salt from the spout (still dislocation creep) remain within a largely reworked salt layer. Photo courtesy of Alex Webb (University of Leeds).

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Salt extraction via water. They blast the salt glacier with water from hoses, and let that water (now enriched in salt) flow down into flat pools. In the pools, the water evaporates and relatively pristine salt is left behind for collection. Photograph courtesy of Alex Webb (University of Leeds).

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Salt evaporation ponds. Photo courtesy of Alex Webb (University of Leeds).

One Response to “October Puzzler Answer: Salt Glaciers in Xinjiang”

  1. Shadab Raza says:

    Thanks to the team for highly intriguing and enlightening posts. As a geologist, I usually go through these stuff which has a three fold impact. Firstly, it gives me a glimpse of present activities which must have happened in past , Secondly it gives idea of extent of the activity in terms of scale (local to regional) and most importantly a realization of an era of technological advancement where sitting in a seat, I can see the whole world.

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