Clay Keeps Records of Ancient Water – #365papers – 2018 – 56

Mix and Chamberlain, 2014, Stable isotope records of hydrologic change and paleotemperature from smectite in Cenozoic western North America: Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta, v. 141, p. 532-546

What’s it about?

Smectite is a specific kind of clay mineral, common in volcanic ash. This kind of clay incorporates water during its formation, which, as the authors show, can provide a record of what surface water was like when the clay formed.

Why does it matter?

Isotopes of oxygen and hydrogen in precipitation and surface water provide information about climate conditions, such as temperature and humidity. Water preserved in the smectite provides another means to look at ancient climate and climate change.

Why did I read this?

I have a love-hate relationship with clay, but a deep and abiding love of stable isotopes. I decided to read this to see if I could utilize isotopes from smectites in my own research.

What did I learn?

The answer to the above question (can I use isotopes from smectites in my own projects) is “possibly,” but I don’t feel like dealing with that chemistry and I need some other equipment, so probably not. I’m too lazy.

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