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Trace-element partition coefficients in the calcite-water system and their paleoclimatic significance in cave studies

Trace-element partition coefficients in the calcite-water system and their paleoclimatic significance in cave studies

Journal of hydrology 61(1-3): 213-222

Speleothems (stalactites, stalagmites) formed in limestone caves have been found to contain much information on the timing and intensity of past climates, from analysis of their U, Th, 13C and 18O contents. Because the incorporation of certain trace elements (e.g., Mg, Mn and Zn) in calcite is known to be temperature-dependent, it may be possible to use variations in trace-metal content of fossil speleothems as an alternative paleotem-perature indicator. Using specially developed ion-exchange sampling techniques, analysis of trace-metal content of seepage water and associated fresh calcite deposits in caves in Vancouver Island and Jamaica shows that Mg is distributed between phases in a consistent manner within the temperature regimes of the caves (7° and 23°C, respectively). Average values of the distribution coefficient for Mg are respectively 0.017 and 0.045 at these temperatures. These results indicate that the Mg content of calcite varies directly with temperature and in a sufficiently pronounced manner that a 1°C rise in depositional temperature of a speleothem containing 500 ppm Mg, at 10°C, would be seen as an increase of 35ppm Mg — a readily determinable shift. Other factors affecting Mg content of a speleothem are considered.

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Accession: 017540380

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DOI: 10.1016/0022-1694(83)90249-4

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