Earth Institute Research Projects

A Critical Test of the Nd Paleocirculation Proxy

Lead PI: Dr. Steven Lloyd Goldstein

Unit Affiliation: Geochemistry, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory (LDEO)

September 2013 - August 2015
Project Type: Research

DESCRIPTION: Neodymium (Nd) isotopes are increasingly used in paleoceanographic studies as "quasi-conservative" water mass tracers. However, the limitations of this proxy are not yet fully understood. The proposed work aims to address this uncertainty by critically evaluating the behavior of Nd isotopes as tracers of water mass mixing. The project, led by researchers at Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, will analyze in-hand seawater and surface sediment samples collected along a meridional transect in the southwest Atlantic (0 to 50 degrees S) during a GEOTRACES cruise. The sample suite will be used to test 1) whether Nd isotope ratios deviate from expected values for mixing along circulation transport paths, 2) whether Nd isotopes behave quasi-conservatively away from continental margins, 3) whether seafloor features (e.g., continental shelf, volcanic seamounts) add significant external Nd to the system, and 4) whether the Southern Hemisphere wind zones impact Nd isotope values through aeolian deposition. The relationship between Nd isotopes in authigenic surface sediments and those in the overlying seawater will be calibrated for the first time. By testing an emerging tool in the study of past ocean dynamics, this research will enable a more accurate understanding of changes in the ocean-climate system. The project will support an early-career researcher and a graduate student. Undergraduate students will be involved through an NSF-supported summer internship program at LDEO.