Controls on Speleothem Initial 234U/238U Ratios in a Monsoon Climate

Jessica L. Oster*, Elli R. Ronay, Warren D. Sharp, Sebastian F. M. Breitenbach, David J. Furbish

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Downloads (Pure)


Speleothem initial uranium isotope ratios ((234U/238U)i) can be influenced by processes along the seepage water flow‐path including alpha‐recoil into porewater during 238U decay and hostrock weathering, the balance of which can reflect the infiltration rate. Thus, speleothem (234U/238U)i may provide information about past changes in rainfall amounts. However, the utility of (234U/238U)i as a paleo‐infiltration proxy has only been explored in a limited set of rainfall regimes. We present a speleothem (234U/238U)i record from Mawmluh Cave in northeast India, an area influenced by the Indian Summer Monsoon, covering 1964–2012 CE. Speleothem (234U/238U)i was relatively constant from 1964 to 1984 but then linearly increased by 0.05 over ∼15 years, a trend that does not correspond with observed rainfall changes. To evaluate potential drivers of (234U/238U)i variability, we model the evolution of water (234U/238U) in a simple karst system using an advection‐reaction model parameterized by Mawmluh Cave variables. Although varying infiltration influences modeled water (234U/238U), the larger, sustained change observed in the speleothem record can only be modeled by varying the U concentration and (234U/238U) of the weathering hostrock. This suggests that larger shifts in speleothem (234U/238U)i may result from flow path changes, bringing waters in contact with hostrock of variable U characteristics. Consideration of published Mawmluh Cave records suggests that these mechanisms may also explain variability in stalagmite (234U/238U)i on precessional timescales. Further examination of speleothems (234U/238U)i from climates characterized by high rainfall and extensive weathering is warranted to better constrain the controls on (234U/238U)i in these dynamic environments.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere2023GC010899
JournalGeochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems
Issue number4
Early online date14 Apr 2023
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2023

Cite this