Robust chronological reconstruction for young speleothems using radiocarbon

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Elsevier Science Ltd
We have studied two young speleothems, SC4 from Smiths Cave (Christmas Island, eastern Indian Ocean) and WM7 from Wollondilly Cave (Wombeyan caves, SE Australia). Attempts to date these speleothems by the Th/U method have proved unsuccessful with some age reversals for SC4 due to multiple sources of non-authigenic Th. This method has also resulted in imprecise ages for WM7 because of low U concentrations (<10 ppb) and consequently very low levels of authigenic Th-230 relative even to the very low levels of detrital Th-230 present. Here, we present an alternative method for reliable dating of these young speleothems using radiocarbon. Approximately 100 carbonate samples from SC4 and WM7 were analysed for C-14 by accelerator mass spectrometry (AMS). The AMS results indicate that bomb C-14 was evident in the youngest parts of both stalagmites. Two different approaches were used to estimate dead carbon fraction (DCF) values for these stalagmites for the pre-bomb period. For SC4, the DCF values were estimated based on the timing of C-14 dates for that period determined by high-resolution delta O-18 recorded in the speleothem, and the timing of the onset of bomb C-14. For WM7, a "maximum" range of pre-bomb DCF was determined. Chronologies of these speleothems were built based on a dense sequence of DCF-corrected ages using three different age-depth models: Clam (Classical method), and Bacon and OxCal (Bayesian statistical approach). Good agreement between these age-depth models were observed indicating that the top 170 mm of SC4 and the top 50 mm of WM7 grew during the past 550-750 years and 1360-1740 years, respectively. © 2012, Elsevier Ltd.
Carbon 14, Soils, Bombs, Climatic change, Tree rings, Quaternary period
Hua, Q., McDonald, J., Redwood, D., Drysdale, R., Lee, S., Fallon, S., & Hellstrom, J. (2012). Robust chronological reconstruction for young speleothems using radiocarbon. Quaternary Geochronology, 14, 67-80. doi:10.1016/j.quageo.2012.04.017