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Sand residence times of one million years in the Namib Sand Sea from cosmogenic nuclides

Vermeesch, Pieter and Fenton, C.R. and Kober, F. and Wiggs, G.F.S. and Bristow, Charlie S. and Xu, S. (2010) Sand residence times of one million years in the Namib Sand Sea from cosmogenic nuclides. Nature Geoscience 3 (12), pp. 862-865. ISSN 1752-0894.

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Official URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/ngeo985

Abstract

The Namib Sand Sea is one of the world’s oldest and largest sand deserts1, yet little is known about the source of the sand in this, or other large deserts2. In particular, it is unclear whether the sand is derived from local sediment or comes from remote sources. The relatively uniform appearance of dune sands and low compositional variability within dune fields3 make it difficult to address this question. Here we combine cosmogenic-nuclide measurements and geochronological techniques to assess the provenance and migration history of sand grains in the Namib Sand Sea. We use U–Pb geochronology of detrital zircons to show that the primary source of sand is the Orange River at the southern edge of the Namib desert. Our burial ages obtained from measurements of the cosmogenic nuclides 10Be, 26Al and 21Ne suggest that the residence time of sand within the sand sea is at least one million years. We therefore conclude that, despite large climatic changes in the Namib region associated with Quaternary glacial–interglacial cycles4, 5, the area currently occupied by the Namib Sand Sea has never been entirely devoid of sand during the past million years.

Item Type: Article
School or Research Centre: Birkbeck Schools and Research Centres > School of Science > Earth and Planetary Sciences
Depositing User: Administrator
Date Deposited: 25 Feb 2011 14:24
Last Modified: 17 Apr 2013 12:20
URI: http://eprints.bbk.ac.uk/id/eprint/3143

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