Abstract

This study aims to establish evidence for the widespread existence of preserved high-resolution trace element variations in speleothems that may have climatic significance. Ion microprobe analysis of speleothems reveals that annual to sub-annual variations in element chemistry exist at five, shallow western European cave sites (Crag Cave, County Kerry and Ballynamintra, County Waterford, Ireland; Uamh an Tartair, Sutherland, Scotland; Grotte Pere-Noël, Belgium; Grotta di Ernesto, NE Italy) with widely varying climatic, geomorphic and geological settings. The variations are not restricted to species (Mg, Sr and Ba) known to substitute directly for Ca in the calcite lattice, but include H, F, Na and P. Phosphorus (as phosphate) displays the greatest variability and may have the most significance as a proxy for the seasonal temperature cycle because of its role as a nutrient element. The technique allows estimation of growth rate of speleothems at any interval of interest, which is one of several possible uses in palaeoclimatology.

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