Cobble encrusted with halite evaporated from the Dead Sea, Israel.

Evaporite (play /ɨˈvæpərt/) is a name for a water-soluble mineral sediment that result from concentration and crystallization by evaporation from an aqueous solution.[1] There are two types of evaporate deposits, marine which can also be described as ocean deposits, and non-marine which are found in standing bodies of water such as lakes. Evaporites are considered sedimentary rocks.


Formation of evaporite rocks

Although all water bodies on the surface and in aquifers contain dissolved salts, the water must evaporate into the atmosphere for the minerals to precipitate. For this to happen the water body must enter a restricted environment where water input into this environment remains below the net rate of evaporation. This is usually an arid environment with a small basin fed by a limited input of water. When evaporation occurs, the remaining water is enriched in salts, and they precipitate when the water becomes oversaturated.

Evaporite depositional environments

Marine evaporites


Marine evaporites tend to have thicker deposits and are usually the focus of more extensive research.[2] They also have a system of evaporation. When scientists evaporate ocean water in a laboratory, the minerals are deposited in a defined order that was first demonstrated by Usiglio in 1884.[2] The first phase of the experiment begins when about 50% of the original water depth remains, at this point minor carbonates begin to form.[2] The next phase in the sequence came when the experiment was left with about 20% of its original level, at this point the mineral gypsum begins to form, which is then followed by halite at 10%.[2] Excluding carbonate minerals which tend not to be evaporates. The most common minerals that are generally considered to be the most representative of marine evaporates are, calcite, gypsum and anhydrite, halite, sylvite, carnellite, langbeinite, polyhalite, and kanite. Kieserite (MgSO4) may also be included, which often will make up less than four percent of the overall content.[2] However there are approximately 80 different minerals that have been reported found in evaporite deposits (Stewart,1963;Warren,1999) though only about a dozen are common enough to be considered important rock formers.[2]

Non-Marine Evaporites

Non-marine evaporites are usually composed of minerals that are not common in marine environments, because the water from which non-marine evaporites precipitate generally have proportions of chemical elements different from those found in the marine environments.[2] Common minerals that are found in these deposits include bleodite, borax, epsomite, gaylussite, glauberite, mangadile, mirabilite, thenardite and trona. Non-marine deposites may also contain halite, gypsum, and anhydrite, and may in some cases even be dominated by these minerals, although they did not come from ocean deposits. This however does not make non-marine deposits any less important, these deposits often help to paint a picture into past earth climates. Some particular deposits even show important tectonic and climatic changes. These deposits also may contain important minerals that help in today's economy.[3] Thick non-marine deposits that accumulate tend to form where evaporation rates will exceed the inflow rate, and where there is sufficient soluble supplies. The inflow also has to occur in a closed basin, or one with restricted outflow, so that the sediment has time to pool and form a lake or other standing body of water.[3] Primary Examples of this are called "saline lake deposits".[3] Saline lakes includes things such as perennial lakes which are lakes that are there year round, playa lakes which are lakes that only appear at during certain seasons, or any other terms that are used to define places that hold standing bodies of water intermittently or year round. Some examples of modern non-marine depositional environments is the Great Salt Lake in Utah, and the Dead Sea which lies between Jordan and Israel.

Evaporite depositional environments which meet the above conditions include;

  • Graben areas and half-grabens within continental rift environments fed by limited riverine drainage, usually in subtropical or tropical environments
    • Example environments at the present which match this is the Denakil Depression, Ethiopia; Death Valley, California
  • Graben environments in oceanic rift environments fed by limited oceanic input, leading to eventual isolation and evaporation
    • Examples include the Red Sea, and the Dead Sea in Jordan and Israel
  • Internal drainage basins in arid to semi-arid temperate to tropical environments fed by ephemeral drainage
  • Non-basin areas fed exclusively by groundwater seepage from artesian waters
    • Example environments include the seep-mounds of the Victoria Desert, fed by the Great Artesian Basin, Australia
  • Restricted coastal plains in regressive sea environments
  • Drainage basins feeding into extremely arid environments
    • Examples include the Chilean deserts, certain parts of the Sahara and the Namib

The most significant known evaporite depositions happened during the Messinian salinity crisis in the basin of the Mediterranean.

Evaporitic formations

Hopper crystal cast of halite in a Jurassic rock, Carmel Formation, southwestern Utah.

Evaporite formations need not be composed entirely of halite salt. In fact, most evaporite formations do not contain more than a few percent of evaporite minerals, the remainder being composed of the more typical detrital clastic rocks and carbonates. Examples of evaporate formations include occurrences of evaporite sulfur in Eastern Europe and West Asia.[4]

For a formation to be recognised as evaporitic it may simply require recognition of halite pseudomorphs, sequences composed of some proportion of evaporite minerals, and recognition of mud crack textures or other textures.

Economic importance of evaporites

Evaporites are important economically because of their mineralogy, their physical properties in-situ and their behaviour within the subsurface.

Evaporite minerals, especially nitrate minerals, are economically important in Peru and Chile. Nitrate minerals are often mined for use in the production on fertilizer and explosives.

Thick halite deposits are expected to become an important location for the disposal of nuclear waste because of their geologic stability, predictable engineering and physical behaviour and imperviousness to groundwater.

Halite formations are famous for their ability to form diapirs which produce ideal locations for trapping petroleum deposits.

Major groups of evaporite minerals


This is a chart that shows minerals that form the marine evaporite rocks, they are usually the most common minerals that appear in this kind of deposit.

Mineral class Mineral name Chemical Composition
Chlorides Halite








KMgCl3 * 6H2O


K2Ca2Mg(SO4)6 * H2O

KMg(SO4)Cl * 3H2O

Sulfates Anhydrate




CaSO4 * 2H2O

MgSO4 * H2O

Carbonates Dolomite






Hanksite, Na22K(SO4)9(CO3)2Cl, one of the few minerals that is both a carbonate and a sulfate

Evaporite minerals start to precipitate when their concentration in water reaches such a level that they can no longer exist as solutes.

The minerals precipitate out of solution in the reverse order of their solubilities, such that the order of precipitation from sea water is

  1. Calcite (CaCO3) and dolomite (CaMg(CO3)2)
  2. Gypsum (CaSO4-2H2O) and anhydrite (CaSO4).
  3. Halite (i.e. common salt, NaCl)
  4. Potassium and magnesium salts

The abundance of rocks formed by seawater precipitation is in the same order as the precipitation given above. Thus, limestone (calcite) and dolomite are more common than gypsum, which is more common than halite, which is more common than potassium and magnesium salts.

Evaporites can also be easily recrystallized in laboratories in order to investigate the conditions and characteristics of their formation.

See also


  1. ^ Jackson, Julia A., 1997, Glossary of Geology 4th edition, American Geologic Institute, Alexandria Virginia
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Boggs, S., 2006, Principles of Sedimentology and Stratigraphy (4th ed.), Pearson Prentice Hall, Upper Saddle River, NJ, 662 p.
  3. ^ a b c Melvin,J.L.(ed) 1991,Evaporites, petroleum and mineral resources; Elsevier, Amsterdam
  4. ^ C.Michael Hogan. 2011. Sulfur. Encyclopedia of Earth, eds. A.Jorgensen and C.J.Cleveland, National Council for Science and the environment, Washington DC

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Evaporite — Évaporite Israël. Les évaporites, ou roches évaporitiques, sont des roches sédimentaires constituées de minéraux ayant précipité à la suite d une augmentation de leurs concentrations dans une saumure. Cette augmentation de concentration provient… …   Wikipédia en Français

  • évaporite — ● évaporite nom féminin Dépôt riche en chlorures (sel gemme, sylvine, carnallite, etc.) et sulfates (gypse, anhydrite) alcalins, qui précipitent, par sursaturation due à l évaporation, dans les lagunes et les bassins au bilan hydrologique très… …   Encyclopédie Universelle

  • evaporite — [ē vap′ə rīt΄, ivap′ə rīt΄] n. a type of sedimentary rock, as halite or gypsum, formed by the evaporation of salt water …   English World dictionary

  • evaporite — /i vap euh ruyt /, n. Geol. any sedimentary rock, as gypsum or rock salt, formed by precipitation from evaporating seawater. [1920 25; EVAPOR(ATION) + ITE1] * * * Any of a variety of minerals found in sedimentary deposits of soluble salts that… …   Universalium

  • Évaporite — Pavé incrusté de halite, Mer Morte. Les évaporites, ou roches évaporitiques, sont des roches sédimentaires constituées de minéraux ayant précipité à la suite d une augmentation de leurs concentrations dans une saumure. Cette augmentation de… …   Wikipédia en Français

  • evaporite — noun Etymology: evaporation + 1 ite Date: 1924 a sedimentary rock (as gypsum) that originates by evaporation of seawater in an enclosed basin • evaporitic adjective …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • Evaporite — Evaporit (von engl. evaporation = dt. Verdampfen) bezeichnet Verdampfungs und Eindunstungsgestein, das als chemisches Sediment überwiegend in der kontinentalen Erdkruste vorkommt und das sich durch fortschreitende Wasserverdunstung (Evaporation)… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • evaporite — noun The salty, crusty, sediment that remains after sea water evaporates …   Wiktionary

  • Evaporite — Evaporịte,   Singular Evaporịt der, s, Eindampfungssedimente, durch Verdunstung des Wassers in abgeschnürten Meeresbecken oder in Salzpfannen und seen entstandene Ablagerungen, v. a. Steinsalz, Kalisalze, Anhydrit und Gips …   Universal-Lexikon

  • evaporite —    Rock formed by precipitation of minerals from evaporating water, usually from sea water. As sea water evaporates the least soluble mineral contents precipitate first; these include calcium carbonate that is deposited as fine grained limestone …   Lexicon of Cave and Karst Terminology

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