Evaporites are water-soluble, mineral sediments that result from the evaporation of saline water. Most evaporites are derived from bodies of sea-water, though saline lakes may also be an important source (e.g. the Great Salt Lake, Utah).
Evaporites start to precipitate when their concentration in water reaches such a level that they can no longer exist as solutes. This supersaturation is usually the result of prolonged evaporation.
Evaporite minerals are geologically important because they clearly are related to the environmental conditions that existed at the time of their deposition, namely an arid environment, such as coastal plain or restricted basinal, e.g. Death Valley, or the Dead Sea. Evaporites can also be easily recrystallized in laboratories in order to postulate the specific characteristics of their formation.
Major groups of Evaporite Minerals
The minerals precipitate out of solution in the reverse order of their solubilities, such that the order of precipitation is:
Calcite (CaCO3) and dolomite (CaMg(CO3)2)
- Gypsum (CaSO4-2H2O) and anhydrite (CaSO4).
- Halite (i.e. common salt, NaCl)
Potassium and magnesium salts