Assessing Sedimentary Detrital Pb Isotopes as a Dust Tracer in the Pacific Ocean

Andrea M. Erhardt, Grant Douglas, Andrew D. Jacobson, Josh Wimpenny, Qing Zhu Yin, Adina Paytan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Mineral dust particles from different source regions typically have distinct Pb isotope ratios. Theoretically, Pb isotopic composition of terrigenous minerals isolated from open-ocean sediments should allow for dust provenance reconstructions. However, Pb isotopes of terrigenous fractions of sediments have frequently been inconsistent with expected source region signatures. This study investigates the reason(s) for offsets between the Pb isotope values of the dust component in sediment cores and those expected from source regions with focus on changes in sediment composition, sediment age, and sediment processing for analysis. Pb isotope ratios from Pacific Ocean core-top sediments show a general delineation of the Intertropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ). Isotope mixing models support these general trends, though similarity in Pb isotope ratios of disparate source regions makes constraining specific sources challenging. Pb isotope ratios in downcore samples varied on glacial/interglacial time scales, being less radiogenic during the last glacial maximum, suggesting either a weakened ITCZ or the addition of a new, less radiogenic, source to the system. Finally, Pb isotope ratios in some source region samples yielded different Pb isotope signatures in bulk source sample than in the insoluble terrigenous fraction of the source sample, indicating that differential mineral preservation within the terrigenous component in sediments may cause offsets from source signatures. Overall, while Pb isotopes show distinct basin-scale variations, high-resolution spatial reconstructions require tight age controls and consistency in analytical treatment if used to define ocean sediment source regions.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere2020PA004144
JournalPaleoceanography and Paleoclimatology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021. American Geophysical Union. All Rights Reserved.


  • Eastern Equatorial Pacific
  • Intertropical Convergence Zone
  • Pb isotopes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oceanography
  • Atmospheric Science
  • Paleontology


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