The role of trace elements as palaeo-climate proxies has been explored in ANSTO-led collaborative environmental research.
Palaeoclimate is the reconstruction and study of past climate states on Earth and other planets.
Trace metals from aerosols in the atmosphere that are deposited in the soil, or from bedrock, and make their way into cave stalagmites can be used as proxies to confirm climatic events, according to research published by Carol Tadros and associates in Science of the Total Environment.
The research will help in deciphering the complexity of geochemical signals in drip water from speleothems (cave stalagmites) in order to reliably reconstruct a history of palaeoclimate in south-eastern Australia.
Tadros published the paper as part of her PhD studies undertaken at the University of New South Wales under the supervision of Prof Andy Baker, Director of Research and Environment and Dr Pauline Treble of ANSTO. Stuart Hankin from ANSTO also contributed to the research.
Trace amounts of sodium, potassium and zinc and other elements are carried as fine particulate matter in aerosols before being deposited at cave sites. These elements can modify the chemical composition of drip waters used in environmental research.
“If we know that a trace element can be used as a proxy for say, drought and El Niño events, then when we look back further in time, we can confirm periods of drought by the proxy,” said Tadros.