Identifying Quaternary Climate Change with XRF Analysis on Loess From South-Western England
Sammanfattning: Huge changes in climate occurred at the end of the last Quaternary glaciation. The end of this glaciation corresponds with the end of Pleistocene with its repeated glacial cycles and the start of the current geological epoch, the Holocene interglacial. The climate at this time was characterized by increasing temperatures and an increase in rainfall. This project focuses on understanding and examining these changes in climate using loess deposits from south-western England. Loess is an aeolian sediment and covers around 10 % of the Earth’s land surface and these deposits are excellent archives of past climate. Investigating loess can give understanding of past regional and local wind circulation patterns, atmospheric dustiness as well as weathering conditions. Studying paleoclimate is important since studying and understanding trends in past climate can increase our understanding of how the climate will change in the future. This study examined loess from two sites in south-western England, Porth Cressa and Lowland Point. These are relatively thin deposits; Lowland Point has a thickness of 180 cm and Porth Cressa has a thickness of 97 cm. England lacks the thick loess deposits that can be found in other parts of the world and thus the study of English loess has mostly been neglected. These deposits thus could contain unutilized information about paleoclimate. The elemental composition of the samples was examined using X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF). With the measured elemental composition, it’s possible to use weathering indices to see trends in postdepositional weathering. Low weathering intensities indicate a colder and drier climate, while higher weathering intensities indicate a warmer and more humid climate. The results from the weathering indices were plotted against depth at the two sites to identify changes in weathering and hence climate over time. Compared with the results from previous studies the results from some weathering indices seemed credible. Previous studies have indicated that the Chemical Proxy of Alteration (CPA) is the most appropriate weathering index for loess and the results from this study supports that theory. The results from the CPA show a trend with decreasing weathering intensities followed by a trend with increasing weathering intensities This implies that there was a period with decreasing temperatures/humidity followed by a period with increasing temperature humidity sometime at the end of the last glaciation. The geochemical data also showed support for a previous archaeological theory that there has been human reworking in the upper horizons at Lowland Point.
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