Beryllium-10 Terrestrial Cosmogenic Nuclide Surface Exposure Dating of Quaternary Landforms in Death Valley

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Geological Sciences

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Quaternary alluvial fans, and shorelines, spits and beach bars were dated using 10Be terrestrial cosmogenic nuclide (TCN) surface exposure methods in Death Valley. The 10Be TCN ages show considerable variance on individual surfaces. Samples collected in the active channels date from ~ 6 ka to ~ 93 ka, showing that there is significant 10Be TCN inheritance within cobbles and boulders. This suggests that the predominantly bedrock hillslopes erode very slowly and sediment is transferred very gradually in most regions within Death Valley. Comparisons of 10Be TCN ages on alluvial fan surfaces with chronostratigraphies based on soil development and optically stimulated luminescence dating show that minimum 10Be TCN ages within sample sets on individual surfaces most closely approximate to the age of landforms that are younger than ~ 70 ka. Alluvial fan surfaces older than ~ 70 ka have begun to undergo sufficient erosion such that the majority of 10Be TCN ages for datasets on individual surfaces probably underestimate the true age of the surface due to erosion and exhumation of fresh cobbles and boulders. The spread of 10Be TCN ages for beach bars near Beatty Junction and shorelines ~ 8 km south of Furnace Creek is large, ranging from ~ 119 ka to ~ 385 ka and ~ 109 ka to ~ 465 ka, respectively. New and previously published luminescence ages and soil development suggest that these landforms may have formed during marine isotope stage (MIS) 2 (~ 22–18 ka), but these younger ages may reflect elluviation of material into the bar deposit long after deposition, and hence the younger ages do not record the true antiquity of the landforms. This disparity between dates determined by different dating methods and the large spread of TCN ages suggests that the cobbles and boulders have considerable inherited 10Be concentrations, suggesting that the clasts have been derived from older shorelines or associated landforms. These results highlight the problems associated with using surface cobbles and boulders to date Quaternary surfaces in Death Valley and emphasizes the need to combine multiple, different dating methods to accurately date landforms in similar dryland regions elsewhere in the world. However, these results highlight the potential to use TCN methods, when used in combination with other dating techniques, to examine and quantify processes such as sediment transfer and denudation in drylands.


This article was originally published in Geomorphology. The full-text article from the publisher can be found here.

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