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New Mexico Earth Matters — Back-issues


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New Mexico’s Sulfuric Acid Caves
Daniel Jones, Victor Polyak, Harvey DuChene, and George Veni

New Mexico has some of the world’s most spectacular caves. Each year, roughly half a million visitors flock to southeastern New Mexico to experience the underground splendor of Carlsbad Caverns National Park and hike in the rugged terrain of the Guadalupe Mountains. The area attracts more than just tourists. Scientists from all over the world study Carlsbad Cavern, Lechuguilla Cave, and other beautiful and enigmatic caves in the Guadalupe Mountains. These caves contain strange mineral deposits and large chambers that puzzled scientists and explorers for many years. We now know that these once-mysterious features are the result of an unusual cave-formation process known as sulfuric acid speleogenesis (cave formation by sulfuric acid).