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Accurate analysis of noble gas concentrations in small water samples and its application to fluid inclusions in stalagmites

Scheidegger, Y., Baur, H., Brennwald, M. S., Fleitmann, D., Wieler, R. and Kipfer, R. (2010) Accurate analysis of noble gas concentrations in small water samples and its application to fluid inclusions in stalagmites. Chemical Geology, 272. pp. 31-39. ISSN 0009-2541

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1016/j.chemgeo.2010.01.010


The concentrations of dissolved noble gases in water are widely used as a climate proxy to determine noble gas temperatures (NGTs); i.e., the temperature of the water when gas exchange last occurred. In this paper we make a step forward to apply this principle to fluid inclusions in stalagmites in order to reconstruct the cave temperature prevailing at the time when the inclusion was formed. We present an analytical protocol that allows us accurately to determine noble gas concentrations and isotope ratios in stalagmites, and which includes a precise manometrical determination of the mass of water liberated from fluid inclusions. Most important for NGT determination is to reduce the amount of noble gases liberated from air inclusions, as they mask the temperature-dependent noble gas signal from the water inclusions. We demonstrate that offline pre-crushing in air to subsequently extract noble gases and water from the samples by heating is appropriate to separate gases released from air and water inclusions. Although a large fraction of recent samples analysed by this technique yields NGTs close to present-day cave temperatures, the interpretation of measured noble gas concentrations in terms of NGTs is not yet feasible using the available least squares fitting models. This is because the noble gas concentrations in stalagmites are not only composed of the two components air and air saturated water (ASW), which these models are able to account for. The observed enrichments in heavy noble gases are interpreted as being due to adsorption during sample preparation in air, whereas the excess in He and Ne is interpreted as an additional noble gas component that is bound in voids in the crystallographic structure of the calcite crystals. As a consequence of our study's findings, NGTs will have to be determined in the future using the concentrations of Ar, Kr and Xe only. This needs to be achieved by further optimizing the sample preparation to minimize atmospheric contamination and to further reduce the amount of noble gases released from air inclusions.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:Science > School of Archaeology, Geography and Environmental Science > Scientific Archaeology
Science > School of Archaeology, Geography and Environmental Science > Department of Archaeology
ID Code:30482
Uncontrolled Keywords:Stalagmite; Fluid inclusion; Noble gases; Noble gas temperature; Lattice-trapped noble gases

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