Journal of Cave and Karst Studies - ISSN 0146-9517
Volume 60 Number 1: 3-17 - April 1998

A publication of the National Speleological Society

The Problem of Condensation in Karst Studies
Victor N. Dublyansky and Yuri V. Dublyansky


Condensation in karst occurs over a wide range of natural settings, at latitudes from 25º to 70º and altitudes from sea level to 2600 m. In summer (April through September), condensation introduces a significant amount of water into the karst massifs (from 0.1% to as much as 20% of the total dry-season runoff). Contrary to common belief, in winter evaporation does not withdraw appreciable amounts of water from the massifs. Evaporating at depth, the water condenses near the surface within the epikarstic zone or on the snow cover and flows back. Condensation can sustain springs during prolonged dry periods (such as summer and winter) when there is no recharge by liquid precipitation.

Condensation can play a significant role in speleogenesis, and many forms of cave macro-, meso-, and micromorphologies are attributable to condensation corrosion. It can be particularly efficient in the latter stages of hydrothermal cave development (during partial dewatering) when the temperature and the humidity gradients are highest. Coupled with evaporation, air convection, and aerosol mass transfer, condensation can play a crucial role in the formation of a number of speleothems, as well as create peculiar patterns of cave microclimate.

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