skip to main content

Title: Frontiers of Carbonate Clumped Isotope Thermometry

Carbonate minerals contain stable isotopes of carbon and oxygen with different masses whose abundances and bond arrangement are governed by thermodynamics. The clumped isotopic value Δiis a measure of the temperature-dependent preference of heavy C and O isotopes to clump, or bond with or near each other, rather than with light isotopes in the carbonate phase. Carbonate clumped isotope thermometry uses Δivalues measured by mass spectrometry (Δ47, Δ48) or laser spectroscopy (Δ638) to reconstruct mineral growth temperature in surface and subsurface environments independent of parent water isotopic composition. Two decades of analytical and theoretical development have produced a mature temperature proxy that can estimate carbonate formation temperatures from 0.5 to 1,100°C, with up to 1–2°C external precision (2 standard error of the mean). Alteration of primary environmental temperatures by fluid-mediated and solid-state reactions and/or Δivalues that reflect nonequilibrium isotopic fractionations reveal diagenetic history and/or mineralization processes. Carbonate clumped isotope thermometry has contributed significantly to geological and biological sciences, and it is poised to advance understanding of Earth's climate system, crustal processes, and growth environments of carbonate minerals. ▪ Clumped heavy isotopes in carbonate minerals record robust temperatures and fluid compositions of ancient Earth surface and subsurface environments. ▪ Mature analytical methods enable carbonate clumped Δ47, Δ48, and Δ638measurements to address diverse questions in geological and biological sciences. ▪ These methods are poised to advance marine and terrestrial paleoenvironment and paleoclimate, tectonics, deformation, hydrothermal, and mineralization studies.

more » « less
Award ID(s):
Author(s) / Creator(s):
Publisher / Repository:
Annual Reviews
Date Published:
Journal Name:
Annual Review of Earth and Planetary Sciences
Page Range / eLocation ID:
611 to 641
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. Cave carbonate minerals are an important terrestrial paleoclimate archive. A few studies have explored the potential for applying carbonate clumped isotope thermometry to speleothems as a tool for constraining past temperatures. To date, most papers utilizing this method have focused on mass-47 clumped isotope values (Δ47) at a single location and reported that cave carbonate minerals rarely achieve isotopic equilibrium, with kinetic isotope effects (KIEs) attributed to CO2 degassing. More recently, studies have shown that mass-47 and mass-48 CO2 from acid digested carbonate minerals (Δ47 and Δ48) can be used together to assess equilibrium and probe KIEs. Here, we examined 44 natural and synthetic modern cave carbonate mineral samples from 13 localities with varying environmental conditions (ventilation, water level, pCO2, temperature) for (dis)equilibrium using Δ47-Δ48 values, in concert with traditional stable carbon (δ13C) and oxygen (δ18O) isotope ratios. Data showed that 19 of 44 samples exhibited Δ47-Δ48 values indistinguishable from isotopic equilibrium, and 18 (95 %) of these samples yield Δ47-predicted temperatures within error of measured modern temperatures. Conversely, 25 samples exhibited isotopic disequilibria, 13 of which yield erroneous temperature estimates. Within some speleothemsamples, we find Δ47-Δ48 values consistent with CO2 degassing effects, however, the majority of sampleswith KIEs are consistent with other processes being dominant. We hypothesize that these values reflect isotopicbuffering effects on clumped isotopes that can be considerable and cannot be overlooked. Using a Raleigh Distillation Model, we examined carbon and oxygen isotope exchange trajectories and their relationships with dual clumped isotope disequilibria. Carbon isotope exchange is associated with depletion of both Δ47 and Δ48 relative to equilibrium, while oxygen isotope exchange is associated with enrichment of both Δ47 and Δ48 relative to equilibrium. Cave rafts collected from proximate locations in Mexico exhibit the largest averagedepartures from equilibrium (ΔΔ47 = − 0.032 ± 0.007, ΔΔ48 = − 0.104 ± 0.035, where ΔΔi is the measured value – the equilibrium value). This study shows how the Δ47-Δ48 dual carbonate clumped isotope framework can be applied to a variety of tcave carbonate mineral samples, enabling identification of isotopic equilibria and therefore quantitative application of clumped isotope thermometry for paleoclimate reconstruction, or alternatively, constraining the mechanisms of kinetic effects. 
    more » « less
  2. Abstract

    Organic and inorganic stable isotopes of lacustrine carbonate sediments are commonly used in reconstructions of ancient terrestrial ecosystems and environments. Microbial activity and local hydrological inputs can alter porewater chemistry (e.g., pH, alkalinity) and isotopic composition (e.g., δ18Owater, δ13CDIC), which in turn has the potential to impact the stable isotopic compositions recorded and preserved in lithified carbonate. The fingerprint these syngenetic processes have on lacustrine carbonate facies is yet unknown, however, and thus, reconstructions based on stable isotopes may misinterpret diagenetic records as broader climate signals. Here, we characterize geochemical and stable isotopic variability of carbonate minerals, organic matter, and water within one modern lake that has known microbial influences (e.g., microbial mats and microbialite carbonate) and combine these data with the context provided by 16S rRNA amplicon sequencing community profiles. Specifically, we measure oxygen, carbon, and clumped isotopic compositions of carbonate sediments (δ18Ocarb, δ13Ccarb, ∆47), as well as carbon isotopic compositions of bulk organic matter (δ13Corg) and dissolved inorganic carbon (DIC; δ13CDIC) of lake and porewater in Great Salt Lake, Utah from five sites and three seasons. We find that facies equivalent to ooid grainstones provide time‐averaged records of lake chemistry that reflect minimal alteration by microbial activity, whereas microbialite, intraclasts, and carbonate mud show greater alteration by local microbial influence and hydrology. Further, we find at least one occurrence of ∆47isotopic disequilibrium likely driven by local microbial metabolism during authigenic carbonate precipitation. The remainder of the carbonate materials (primarily ooids, grain coatings, mud, and intraclasts) yield clumped isotope temperatures (T(∆47)), δ18Ocarb, and calculated δ18Owaterin isotopic equilibrium with ambient water and temperature at the time and site of carbonate precipitation. Our findings suggest that it is possible and necessary to leverage diverse carbonate facies across one sedimentary horizon to reconstruct regional hydroclimate and evaporation–precipitation balance, as well as identify microbially mediated carbonate formation.

    more » « less
  3. Abstract

    Increased use and improved methodology of carbonate clumped isotope thermometry has greatly enhanced our ability to interrogate a suite of Earth‐system processes. However, interlaboratory discrepancies in quantifying carbonate clumped isotope (Δ47) measurements persist, and their specific sources remain unclear. To address interlaboratory differences, we first provide consensus values from the clumped isotope community for four carbonate standards relative to heated and equilibrated gases with 1,819 individual analyses from 10 laboratories. Then we analyzed the four carbonate standards along with three additional standards, spanning a broad range of δ47and Δ47values, for a total of 5,329 analyses on 25 individual mass spectrometers from 22 different laboratories. Treating three of the materials as known standards and the other four as unknowns, we find that the use of carbonate reference materials is a robust method for standardization that yields interlaboratory discrepancies entirely consistent with intralaboratory analytical uncertainties. Carbonate reference materials, along with measurement and data processing practices described herein, provide the carbonate clumped isotope community with a robust approach to achieve interlaboratory agreement as we continue to use and improve this powerful geochemical tool. We propose that carbonate clumped isotope data normalized to the carbonate reference materials described in this publication should be reported as Δ47(I‐CDES) values for Intercarb‐Carbon Dioxide Equilibrium Scale.

    more » « less
  4. Abstract

    Carbon, oxygen and clumped isotope (Δ47) values were measured from lacustrine and tufa (spring)‐mound carbonate deposits in the Lower Jurassic Navajo Sandstone of southern Utah and northern Arizona in order to understand the palaeohydrology. These carbonate deposits are enriched in both18O and13C across the basin from east to west; neither isotope is strongly sensitive to the carbonate facies. However,18O is enriched in lake carbonate deposits compared to the associated spring mounds. This is consistent with evaporation of the spring waters as they exited the mounds and were retained in interdune lakes. Clumped isotopes (Δ47) exhibit minor systematic differences between lake and tufa‐mound temperatures, suggesting that the rate of carbonate formation under ambient conditions was moderate. These clumped isotope values imply palaeotemperature elevated beyond reasonable surface temperatures (54 to 86°C), which indicates limited bond reordering at estimated burial depths ofca4 to 5 km, consistent with independent estimates of sediment thickness and burial depth gradients across the basin. Although clumped isotopes do not provide surface temperature information in this case, they still provide useful burial information and support interpretations of the evolution of groundwater locally. The findings of this study significantly extend the utility of combining stable isotope and clumped isotope methods into aeolian environments.

    more » « less
  5. Stalagmites are an important archive of terrestrial climate information. However, there remains questions about the ability of stalagmites to form in oxygen isotopic equilibrium and thus record, in a simple manner, the oxygen isotopic composition and temperature of formational fluids. Recent studies have suggested that the combined application of 48 and 47 carbonate clumped isotope measurements can quantify the extent of kinetic isotope fractionation in stalagmites and thus used to correct for these kinetic isotope effects and solve for the original formation temperatures. Here we measure the 47 and 48 values from 16 different samples of the same stalagmite from central California that spans the deglaciation (11 to 20 kya). Each sample is replicated three to five times. We find that based on these measurements the extent of kinetic fractionation present in the carbonate from this stalagmite is minimal. The temperature calculated from 47 in this stalagmite ranges from 11.6 to 19.9 °C, in agreement with regional reconstructions of temperatures from 47 values of lake carbonates. In contrast, previously published the 18O and 2H values of inclusion fluids (Wortham et al., 2022) from this stalagmite suggest periods of increasing kinetic fractionation of the water isotopes at 13 and 15 ka. These periods have been previously interpreted to be times of a reduction in effective moisture regionally. We suggest by this comparison that the use of both water isotopes and the dual clumped isotope system in stalagmites can aide the interpretation of where kinetic fractionation occurs in the hydrologic and carbonate precipitation system in caves. We will discuss the work’s implications for paleoclimate records from stalagmites and other terrestrial systems in seasonally dry and Mediterranean regions. 
    more » « less