Caves begin to form when rainwater seeps into
soil where it absorbs a small amount of carbon
dioxide. Water mixed with carbon dioxide forms a
weak carbonic acid solution that is able to
dissolve rock (particularly dolomite or
limestone). Water flow creates and enlarges
underground passages, until finally the water
surfaces at a spring. As the flow of water
continues to erode deeper into the surface, the
openings left behind become caves.
The limestone and dolomite bedrock of the
Ozarks´ mountains, where Marvel Cave is located,
contains the mineral calcite. Rainwater
dissolves carbon dioxide found in the soil and
air to form a weak acid solution called carbonic
acid. As with the cave atmosphere, carbon
dioxide is released from the solution, which
causes small deposits of crystallized calcite.
This crystallized calcite forms stalactites.
Growth rates of stalactites can vary greatly but
the average is one inch per 25 to 100 years. As
this process is driven by rainwater, increased
rainwater will increase the rate at which
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