The condensation of acidic waters on subaerial carbonate surfaces (condensation corrosion) can be an important speleogenetic agent under certain conditions (Cigna and Forti, 1986; Sarbu and Lascu, 1997). Specific morphologies associated with condensation corrosion include notches, niches, cupolas, megascallops and domes (Audra, 2009), and have been recognized in many caves from different regions of the world and from different geologic settings. Condensation corrosion can be particularly important in thermal caves, where temperature differences facilitate air convection and water condensation, as well as in sulphidic caves, where degassing and subsequent oxidation of hydrogen sulphide (H2S) gas provides a ready source of acidity to the subaerial cave environment.
In pioneering studies on the formation of sulphidic caves, condensation corrosion via H2S degassing and oxidation to sulphuric acid was considered the primary mechanism for speleogenesis (Principi, 1931; Egemeier, 1981). However, recent research has cast doubt on the importance of subaerial H2S oxidation for sulphidic cave formation (Engel et al., 2004). In the Frasassi cave system, Italy, morphological evidence for both subaerial and subaqueous limestone dissolution has been extensively documented (Galdenzi, 1990; Galdenzi and Maruoka, 2003). In particular, corrosion above the water table has resulted in the formation of massive gypsum deposits as well as specific passage morphologies. Measured rates by Galdenzi et al. (1997) corroborated morphological evidence that condensation corrosion is important at least under certain conditions. Therefore, in order to better define the role of subaerial processes in the Frasassi cave system, we quantified sulphide flux to the cave atmosphere in the modern cave environment, and documented morphological evidence for subaerial corrosion in the past