SGER: Development of the Paired Authigenic Neodymium-Hafnium Isotope Weathering Tracer From Marine Sediments in the Circum Antarctic Realm
This Small Grant for Exploratory Research supports development of a geochemical technique to time the onset of glacial erosion from Antarctica's continental ice sheets. The technique pairs neodymium (Nd) and hafnium (Hf) isotope proxies from the authigenic (seawater-derived) ferromanganese phase precipitated in marine sediments. This technique promises to be a sensitive indicator of glacial erosion. Non-radiogenic Hf is contained in the mineral zircon, which can only be released by the abrasive grinding that accompanies glacial erosion. Previous attempts to develop this technique encountered difficulty due to the minute amounts of Hf involved and the difficulty in its extraction. The PIs have developed a new chemical protocol that should allow them to selectively extract authigenic Hf from bulk sediments. If successful, studies of the Eocene-Oligocene boundary from two drill cores the Weddell Sea and Kerguelen Plateau will be carried out. This boundary is considered the initiation point for formation of Antarctica's current ice sheets. If successful, this method will benefit scientists with interests as diverse as continental weathering, ocean circulation, Cenozoic paleoceanography and paleoclimate, and Antarctic geology.
The broader impacts of this work are development of a new analytical technique that may improve society's understanding of the potential for global climate change from the perspective of the deep time record.
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