Salt Pans (such as in Badwater Basin of Death Valley, California) often show a tessellation pattern which forms presumably due to contraction of the deposited salt crust forming irregular cracks towards which the salt crust bends upwards and creates ridges. The cells of this tessellation have a characteristic size of 1-2 meters. I wonder whether a simple model exists which can explain the size of the cells, i.e. why they are 1-2m in size as opposed to 5cm or 10m.

If someone has researched this in the past, I would be interested in some references. Otherwise, some ideas or speculations are appreciated. Some related questions: would the cell size change with a different salt (Badwater Basin is covered predominantly by NaCl)? Does the composition of the underlying soil or rock matter? Does it rather depend on the diurnal temperature time-course characteristic of the place?

  • $\begingroup$ I would start by searching for desiccation cracks, which is fairly well documented in the geotechnical engineering and soil mechanics literature. $\endgroup$
    – txpaulm
    Feb 9, 2016 at 23:37

1 Answer 1



Here are two references:

  1. http://www.iup.uni-heidelberg.de/institut/forschung/groups/ts/soil_physics/research/pms/cracks

  2. Coupling analysis of pattern formation in desiccation cracks, [2016, Sayako Hirobe and Kenji Oguni]

Best, Jannes

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Please do not write link-only answers $\endgroup$
    – Jan Doggen
    Oct 7, 2016 at 12:04
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Could you summarize the information in the two references, please? $\endgroup$
    – arkaia
    Oct 7, 2016 at 13:13

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