Red beds

Cathedral Rock near Sedona, made of Permian redbeds.
Red butte, Selja Gorges, Tunisia
Redbeds of the Permo-Triassic Spearfish formation surround Devils Tower National Monument

Red beds (or redbeds) are sedimentary rocks, which typically consist of sandstone, siltstone, and shale that are predominantly red in color due to the presence of ferric oxides. Frequently, these red-colored sedimentary strata locally contain thin beds of conglomerate, marl, limestone, or some combination of these sedimentary rocks. The ferric oxides, which are responsible for the red color of red beds, typically occur as a coating on the grains of sediments comprising red beds. Classic examples of red beds are the Permian and Triassic strata of the western United States and the Devonian Old Red Sandstone facies of Europe.[1][2]

Primary red beds

Krynine (1950) suggested that the red beds were primarily formed by the erosion and redeposition of red soils or older red beds, but a fundamental problem with this hypothesis is the relative scarcity of red-colored source sediments of suitable age close to an area of red bed sediments in Cheshire, England. Van Houten (1961) developed the idea to include the in situ (early diagenetic) reddening of the sediment by the dehydration of brown or drab colored ferric hydroxides. These ferric hydroxides commonly include goethite (FeO-OH) and so-called "amorphous ferric hydroxide" or limonite. Much of this material may be the mineral ferrihydrite (Fe2O3 H2O).

This dehydration or "aging" process has been found to be intimately associated with pedogenesis in alluvial floodplains and desert environments. Berner (1969) showed that goethite (ferric hydroxide) is normally unstable relative to hematite and, in the absence of water or at elevated temperature, will readily dehydrate according to the reaction:

2FeOOH (goethite)→ Fe2O3 (hematite) +H2O

The Gibbs Free Energy for the reaction goethite → hematite (at 250 °C) is −2.76kJ/mol and Langmuir (1971) showed that G becomes increasingly negative with smaller particle size. Thus detrital ferric hydroxides, including goethite and ferrihydrite, will spontaneously transform into red-colored hematite pigment with time. This process not only accounts for the progressive reddening of alluvium but also the fact that older desert dune sands are more intensely reddened than their younger equivalents.

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Tsetsêhestâhese: Ma'o'honáeo