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Terrestrial Archives of Meteoric 10Be

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posted on 19.12.2021, 14:57 by Adrian A SingletonAdrian A Singleton

The radionuclide 10Be is produced in the atmosphere and is delivered to Earth’s surface in meteoric rain and aerosols. The stable nuclide 9Be is present in trace concentrations within rocks in Earth’s crust and is released via chemical weathering. Together, these two isotopes have been employed to study a wide range of Earth processes. Here I explore new terrestrial archives of Be isotopes: cave speleothems and terrestrial Mn-oxides. Until this point, these archives have barely been studied. Only one published dataset of Be isotopes in cave speleothems exists (Lundblad, 2006), and to my knowledge, terrestrial manganese oxides are yet to be explored. However, since speleothems and Mn-oxides precipitate from groundwater, they have the potential to encode temporal variations in the 10Be/9Be ratio of water and colloids in the vadose zone.

I develop a framework for using the 10Be/9Be ratio in the dissolved phase and/or secondary weathering products as a metric of chemical weathering rate. I am motivated by several over-arching questions:

  1. 1) Which factor, or factors, is/are dominant in controlling Be isotopes in speleothems and terrestrial Mn-oxides?

  2. 2) Can Be isotopes in speleothems be used as a metric of weathering rate over time, particularly across glacial/interglacial cycles?

  3. 3) Can Be isotopes be used to date the formation of terrestrial Mn-oxides?

I measure Be-isotope concentrations in speleothems from Soreq Cave, Israel. By applying an equation that I derive in this thesis, I use the temporal variation in the speleothem10Be/9Be ratio to calculate chemical weathering rates over the last 168 ka. Chemical weathering varies with independent proxies for temperature. The weathering-temperature relationship can be fit to an Arrhenius relationship, and the calculated activation energy (Ea) matches other field-based estimates for feldspar, an abundant mineral in the soil above the cave. In the Appendices I present additional results of Be-isotope measurements in a flowstone from Buffalo Cave in South Africa, as well as Mn-oxides from the Appalachians.


Degree Type

Master of Science


Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences

Campus location

West Lafayette

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee Chair

Darryl Granger

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee co-chair

Nathaniel Lifton

Additional Committee Member 2

Joseph Graly