Geochemical characterization of critical dust source regions in the American West

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Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta, ISSN: 0016-7037, Vol: 215, Page: 141-161

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Sarah M. Aarons; Molly A. Blakowski; Sarah M. Aciego; Emily I. Stevenson; Kenneth W.W. Sims; Sean R. Scott; Charles Aarons
Elsevier BV
Earth and Planetary Sciences
article description
The generation, transport, and deposition of mineral dust are detectable in paleoclimate records from land, ocean, and ice, providing valuable insight into earth surface conditions and cycles on a range of timescales. Dust deposited in marine and terrestrial ecosystems can provide critical nutrients to nutrient-limited ecosystems, and variations in dust provenance can indicate changes in dust production, sources and transport pathways as a function of climate variability and land use change. Thus, temporal changes in locations of dust source areas and transport pathways have implications for understanding interactions between mineral dust, global climate, and biogeochemical cycles. This work characterizes dust from areas in the American West known for dust events and/or affected by increasing human settlement and livestock grazing during the last 150 years. Dust generation and uplift from these dust source areas depends on climate and land use practices, and the relative contribution of dust has likely changed since the expansion of industrialization and agriculture into the western United States. We present elemental and isotopic analysis of 28 potential dust source area samples analyzed using Thermal Ionization Mass Spectrometry (TIMS) for 87 Sr/ 86 Sr and 143 Nd/ 144 Nd composition and Multi-Collector Inductively Coupled Plasma Mass Spectrometer (MC-ICPMS) for 176 Hf/ 177 Hf composition, and ICPMS for major and trace element concentrations. We find significant variability in the Sr, Nd, and Hf isotope compositions of potential source areas of dust throughout western North America, ranging from 87 Sr/ 86 Sr = 0.703699 to 0.740236, ε Nd = −26.6 to 2.4, and ε Hf = −21.7 to −0.1. We also report differences in the trace metal and phosphorus concentrations in the geologic provinces sampled. This research provides an important resource for the geochemical tracing of dust sources and sinks in western North America, and will aid in modeling the biogeochemical impacts of increased dust generation and deposition caused by higher drought frequency and human activity.