Uranium-Series Dating of Speleothems: Current Techniques, Limits, & Applications

Uranium-Series Dating of Speleothems: Current Techniques, Limits, & Applications

Lawrence Edwards. To date, there is a lack of information regarding the dating potential of calcite speleothems that have grown in such gypsum karst environment e. High-resolution U-Th dating, aimed at establishing if these speleothems can provide robust radiometric age sequences, is first presented. These outliers are best explained by post-depositional diagenetic processes affecting the U-Th system rather than anything specific to gypsum karst environment conditions. Consequently, radiocarbon measurements were undertaken, and combined with the U-Th ages to build an age-model. Soils were considered the main source of carbon, because bedrock dissolution acted predominantly under open-system conditions, and soil organic matter SOM turnover rate appears above average compared to sites studied elsewhere. Earth Sciences.

The antiquity of Nullarbor speleothems and implications for karst palaeoclimate archives

Hennig G. Absolute age determinations of calcite formations in caves as e. Because the growth speed of stalagmites should be low or even zero during the ice ages, paleocl imatical informations may also be obtained from the frequency distribution of speleothem ages determined so far.

One of the most useful attributes of speleothems (and the one that sets them apart archives) is their amenability to precise and accurate radiometric dating.

U-series dating and stable isotope records of speleothem records from the Scladina Cave Belgium. The Scladina cave, situated in the village of Sclayn Ardennes, Belgium at the southern bank of the Meuse, is famous for its Neanderthal fossils and artefacts. The infilling of the cave consists of a succession of flowstone layers interbedded with reworked loess sediment from outside the cave.

The younger flowstone layers correspond to interglacials MIS 5 and the Holocene, while the reworked loess sediments represent cooler conditions. By careful diagenetic screening, well-preserved speleothem material was selected for U-series dating and stable isotope analysis of calcite and fluid inclusions. The results provide important new constraints on the age of Neanderthal fossils and artefacts, and bracket the time periods with a hydroclimate favorable for speleothem growth.

The combination of fluid inclusion and calcite isotope analysis documents climate variability in the interglacials at high temporal resolution. As input data, the system uses the following basic measurements: activities, atomic ratios or age, as well as depth measurement. We applied a Monte Carlo simulation to model age and depth values based on the real distribution of counted data activities, atomic ratios, depths etc.

Several fitting methods could be applied for estimating the relationships; based on several tests, we decide to use LOESS method locally weighted scatterplot smoothing. The stratigraphic correction procedure applied in the MOD-AGE program uses a probability calculus, which assumes that the ages of all the samples are correctly estimated. Information about the probability distribution of the samples’ ages is used to estimate the most probable sequence that is concordant according to the superposition rule.

MOD-AGE is presented as a tool for the chronology construction of speleothems that have been analyzed by the U-series method, and it is compared to the StalAge algorithm presented by D. Scholtz and D.


All data generated or analysed during this study are included in this published article and its Supplementary Information files. Speleothems represent important archives of terrestrial climate variation that host a variety of proxy signals and are also highly amenable to radiometric age determination. Although speleothems have been forming on Earth for at least million years, most studies rely upon the U-Th chronometer which extends only to the mid Pleistocene, leaving important questions over their longer-term preservation potential.

Speleothems secondary cave calcite deposits including stalagmites, stalactites and flowstones are increasingly recognised as critical sources of climate history. Their incremental growth provides a record of changing conditions above the cave in which they form, and they can be readily dated to high precision using the decay of natural U incorporated at formation.

Dating the onset and cessation of speleothem growth throughout the cave records of sea-level change are based on U-series dating of speleothem car-.

Stephen J. Geology ; 26 6 : — U-Th age dating and stable isotope measurements of speleothems from Hoti Cave in northern Oman yield paleoclimate information from the region extending to ka. The results 1 provide further confirmation of an early Holocene wet period in southern Arabia extending from some time prior to 9. Shibboleth Sign In. OpenAthens Sign In.

Department of Human Evolution

Note: Earth-Pages will be closing as of early July, but will continue in another form at Earth-logs. As well as that those of Lascaux and Altamira , which have been dated, many works in Spanish caves have not. The earliest known graphic work made by modern humans is a ka-old baton of ochre with a zig-zag set of sharp incisions found with ochre-filled shells possibly for body painting at Blombos Cave in South Africa.

This paper presents the results of dating speleothems from caves in northern England and discusses their implications for the palaeoclimatic history of the area.

Laia Comas-Bru 1 , M. Deininger 1 , S. Harrison 2,3 , M. Bar-Matthews 4 , A. Baker 5 , W. Duan 6 and N. Speleothems are secondary cave deposits formed mostly from inorganic calcium carbonate CaCO 3. Deposits formed from dripping water are called stalagmites growing up from the ground or stalactites growing down from the roof. Speleothems are useful paleoclimate archives as they preserve some aspects of the water chemical composition, providing information from the overlying climate, vegetation and soil.

U-series and U-Pb carbonate geochronology

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The powerful methods available for age-dating speleothems (e.g. Dorale et al., ), dated calcite speleothems collected from the same cave as the ice core.

One of the most useful attributes of speleothems and the one that sets them apart from most other palaeoclimate archives is their amenability to precise and accurate radiometric dating. This is achieved through measurement of the radioactive decay of minute often parts per million or less quantities of natural Uranium in the calcite crystal lattice using sensitive mass spectrometers. By far the most widely used method in this context measures intermediate daughter products in the U-series decay chain, primarily Th and U.

This is the so-called U-Th or U-series dating method. Here are a couple of useful papers on the method on a review and the other documenting the ‘state of the art’:. Richards, D. Reviews in Mineralogy and Geochemistry 51, Cheng et al. Earth and Planetary Science Letters ,

Acta Geologica Polonica


In addition, due to the high precision of uranium-series dating, speleothems provide opportunities to trace leads and lags of global climate events facilitating to.

Special issue: Advances in understanding and applying speleothem climate Research article 23 Oct A fundamental problem in paleoclimatology is to take fully into account the various error sources when examining proxy records with quantitative methods of statistical time series analysis. Records from dated climate archives such as speleothems add extra uncertainty from the age determination to the other sources that consist in measurement and proxy errors.

These records carry regional information about past changes in winter precipitation and temperature. The timescale error influences on centennial- to millennial-scale trend estimation are not excessively large. We find a “mid-Holocene climate double-swing”, from warm to cold to warm winter conditions 6. Our analyses cannot unequivocally support the conclusion that current regional winter climate is warmer than that during the MWP.

Dating of Cave Sediments and Speleothems Attracts Press

Some features of this site are not compatible with your browser. Install Opera Mini to better experience this site. The first pieces of evidence for climate change came from the land itself, from the misplaced boulders scattered across much of the Northern Hemisphere, though there were other signs as well. A homogeneous, fine yellow soil covered more than one million square miles of Europe, Asia, and North America.

Samples dated thus far have ranged in age from approximately ka to recent. U-Pb dating of speleothems to constrain Plio-Pleistocene uplift rates in north.

Until the s, information contained within cave sediments was thought to be limited to just:. Archaeological deposits such as animal and human remains. Information gleaned by visual examination of the stratigraphy of sedimentary layers. This can determine depositional environment, sediment origin, relationship of sediments to cave or landscape development, long-term depositional or erosion trends, and relationships of fossils or artifacts to cave processes.

Then in it was discovered that the rate of decay of a radioactive isotope of carbon Carbon could be used to provide ages for organic samples such as bone, charcoal, etc. Over the last 30 years or so however, the study of cave sediments has become a hot scientific research topic. Several new dating techniques have shown that sediments can now be used to assess a caves geological history speleogenesis and age.

The newest techniques include:. Paleolmagnetic Chronology dating of sediments. Cosmogenic Isotope Dating of sediments. Such methods can provide a geomorphic record of cave ages and river system evolution over the past 5 million years. These methods also offer potential implications for the evaluation of current concern over global warming.

Although the techniques are normally beyond the pocket of the average caver, this brief description might serve as an introduction to the subject. The two broad categories of sediments:.

Global Speleothem Oxygen Isotope Measurements Since the Last Glacial Maximum

Studies of Cave Sediments pp Cite as. Carbonate speleothems that contain ppb-ppm levels of uranium can be dated by the U- U- Th and U- Pa disequilibrium techniques. Accurate ages are possible if the initial concentrations of Th and Pa are well constrained and if the system has remained closed to post-depositional exchange of uranium, thorium, and protactinium. For many speleothems, particularly those composed of nearly pure calcite, initial Th may be trivial.

by detrital thorium, five periods of active speleothem deposition have been identified for Key words: U/Th dating, speleothems, U-leaching, paleoclimate.

The U-series laboratory focuses on development and application of U-series dating techniques to provide a robust chronological framework for palaeoclimatology, archaeology and human evolution. The U-series disequilibrium method is based on the radioactive decay of radionuclides within the naturally occurring decay chains. There are three such decay chains, each starts with an actinide nuclide U, U, Th having a long half live and ultimately ends with different a stable isotope of lead. U-Th dating can be applied to secondary calcium carbonate formations like speleothems , travertine or corals.

For dating e. Differential solubility between uranium and its long lived daughter isotope Th means that drip water in caves and calcite precipitates from this water e. Over time, there is ingrowth of Th from the radioactive decay of uranium until radioactive equilibrium is reached where all isotopes in the series are decaying at the same rate. This method has a dating range up to about We use U-Th dating to obtain a chronology for stalagmites which are used for palaeoclimate research pdf , dating carbonate crusts on cave art to derive minimum age constraints for underlying art paper Hoffmann et al.

Home Contact Imprint Sitemap Webmail. Relevant isotopes of the U decay chain. Temporal evolution of isotope ratios relevant for U-Th dating. U-Th dates for a stalagmite from a submerged cave on the Bahamas.

Dating stalagmites in mediterranean climates using annual trace element cycles

Shah, C. Morrill, E. Gille, W. Gross, D.

Th/U dates on Tasmanian speleothems enable preliminary estimates to be made of ages and rates of evolution of Tasmanian karst caves. Occurrence of​.

Speleothems typically form in limestone or dolomite solutional caves. The definition of “speleothem,” in most publications, specifically excludes secondary mineral deposits in mines, tunnels, and other man-made structures. More than variations of cave mineral deposits have been identified. Calcareous speleothems form via carbonate dissolution reactions. As the lower pH water travels through the calcium carbonate bedrock from the surface to the cave ceiling, it dissolves the bedrock via the reaction:.

When the solution reaches a cave, degassing due to lower cave pCO 2 drives precipitation of CaCO 3 :. Over time the accumulation of these precipitates form stalagmites , stalactites , and flowstones , which compose the major categories of speleothems. Calthemites which occur on concrete structures, are created by completely different chemistry to speleothems. Speleothems take various forms, depending on whether the water drips, seeps, condenses, flows, or ponds.

Many speleothems are named for their resemblance to man-made or natural objects. Types of speleothems include: [2]. Speleothems made of sulfates, carbonates, mirabilite or opal occur in some lava tubes. Speleothems made of pure calcium carbonate are a translucent white color, but often speleothems are colored by chemicals such as iron oxide , copper or manganese oxide , or may be brown because of mud and silt particulate inclusions.

Lecture: Novel techniques in speleothems research for paleohydrological studies

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