Experiments were performed to demonstrate that saline interstitial waters under an arid coastal plain could be set in hydrodynamic movement to replace the evaporative loss near the surface.
In contrast to movement in a vadose zone, which is related to capillary forces caused by surface tension, the type of movement we observed was induced by a vertical hydraulic gradient under the evaporated area. Fluid flow through porous media was induced by an upward decrease in hydrodynamic potential during evaporation. We propose to call this type of movement evaporative pumping.
Experiments further verified that flow rate induced by evaporative pumping was directly governed by evaporation alone; linear flow rate through coarse sand and that through very fine silt was approximately the same under the same evaporative condition. Yet the movement apparently obeyed Darcy's law. Since the permeability of the medium was fixed, and the flow rate was dictated by evaporation, only the hydraulic gradient could be the dependent variable in the Darcy equation. We observed that the gradient was indeed much greater in relative impermeable silt than in permeable sand, when the water to replace evaporative loss must flow with the same rate through those media.
Our experiments suggested that hydrodynamic movement induced by evaporation could be an effective mechanism to transport magnesium-bearing solutions through relatively impermeable sediments of an arid coastal plain. Computations showed that dolomitization by evaporative pumping could proceed at a rate to account for the origin of Recent dolomite crusts, and for the great thickness of ancient supratidal dolomites. In contrast, we believed that dolomitization by seepage reflux or by groundwaters cannot be extensive, because of the inadequate magnesium-supply rates by such waters.