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Comparison of high-resolution SIMS profiles with maximum resolution IRMS stable isotope data

High-resolution speleothem paleoclimate records with annual to seasonal resolution are helpful for detailed analysis of climatic changes with limited duration (e.g., volcanic climate impacts), but also for longer-duration events (e.g., at 8.2 ka or 4.2 ka). A high resolution paleoclimate data set is also mandatory for meaningful comparison with archaeological or historical records. Low stalagmite growth rates could impede the acquisition of high-resolution isotope data with the classical micro-milling approach and isotope ratio mass spectrometry (IRMS) analysis. We therefore compared secondary ionization mass spectrometry (SIMS) stable isotope measurements at 7-15 µm resolution with the lower-resolution micro-milling results at 90 µm steps. For the investigated stalagmite from Kleine Teufelshöhle (Frankonia, Germany) the SIMS resolution corresponds to annual resolution, whereas IRMS only reaches a 4-13 year resolution. Albeit a constant offset, SIMS and IRMS δ18O data match very well (r = 0.61, p < 0.001, n = 84). This significant correspondence suggests that SIMS stable isotope analysis could be a promising alternative for high-resolution carbonate studies. An adjacent second δ18O SIMS profile reproduced high-resolution features (r=0.59, p < 0.001, n = 982) and allows a detailed assessment of paleoclimate variability on an annual scale and a comparison with independent climate records, e.g., weather information from historical documents or tree rings. Stalagmite δ18O trends closely follow the low-frequency fluctuations of a regional tree-ring record (Land et al., 2019), additionally constraining the stalagmite chronology. The different climate sensitivities of both records enable a more robust and detailed discussion of paleoclimatic variations.


Tobias Kluge1,2, Philipp Holz1, Elisabeth Eiche1, Thomas Neumann3, Alexander Land4,5, Maximilian Schuh2,6, Mario Trieloff2,7, Axel K. Schmitt2,7
1Institute of Applied Geosciences, Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, Germany; 2Heidelberg Center for the Environment, Heidelberg University, Germany; 3Institute of Applied Geosciences, Technische Universität Berlin, Germany; 4Institute of Biology (190a), University of Hohenheim, Germany; 5Silviculture & Forest Growth and Yield, University of Applied Forest Sciences, Germany; 6Medieval History, Department of History and Cultural Studies, FU Berlin, Germany; 7Institute of Earth Sciences, Heidelberg University, Germany
GeoKarlsruhe 2021