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A Cenozoic record of seawater uranium in fossil corals

Author(s): Gothmann, Anne M; Higgins, John A; Adkins, Jess F; Broecker, Wally S; Farley, Kenneth A; et al

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Abstract: We measured U/Ca ratios, 4He concentrations, 234U/238U, and 238U/235U in a subset of well-preserved aragonitic scleractinian fossil corals previously described by Gothmann et al. (2015). Comparisons of measured fossil coral He/U ages with the stratigraphic age demonstrate that well-preserved coral aragonite retains most or all of its radiogenic He for 10’s of millions of years. Such samples must be largely or entirely free of alteration, including neomorphism. Measurements of 234U/238U and 238U/235U further help to characterize the fidelity with which the original U concentration has been preserved. Analyses of fossil coral U/Ca show that the seawater U/Ca ratio rose by a factor of 4–5 between the Early Cenozoic and today. Possible explanations for the observed increase include (1) the stabilization of U in seawater due to an increase in seawater [CO32−], and a resulting increase in UO2-CO3 complexation as originally suggested by Broecker (1971); (2) a decrease in the rate of low-temperature hydrothermal alteration from Early Cenozoic to present, leading to a diminished U sink and higher seawater [U]; or (3) a decrease in uranium removal in reducing sediments, again leading to higher seawater [U].
Publication Date: 1-Apr-2019
Electronic Publication Date: 6-Feb-2019
Citation: Gothmann, Anne M., John A. Higgins, Jess F. Adkins, Wally S. Broecker, Kenneth A. Farley, Ryan McKeon, Jarosław Stolarski, Noah Planavsky, Xiangli Wang, and Michael L. Bender. "A Cenozoic record of seawater uranium in fossil corals." Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta 250 (2019): 173-190. doi:10.1016/j.gca.2019.01.039.
DOI: doi:10.1016/j.gca.2019.01.039
ISSN: 0016-7037
Pages: 173 - 190
Type of Material: Journal Article
Journal/Proceeding Title: Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta
Version: Author's manuscript

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