Anomalous cosmogenic 3He production and elevation scaling in the high Himalaya

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Geological Sciences

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The production rate of cosmogenic 3He in apatite, zircon, kyanite and garnet was obtained by cross-calibration against 10Be in co-existing quartz in glacial moraine boulders from the Nepalese Himalaya. The boulders have 10Be ages between 6 and 16 kyr and span elevations from 3200 to 4800 m. In all of these minerals 3He correlates with 10Be and is dominantly cosmogenic in origin. After modest correction for non-cosmogenic components, 3He/10Be systematics imply apparent sea-level high-latitude (SLHL) apparent production rates for 3He of 226 atoms g− 1 yr− 1 in zircon, 254 atoms g−1 yr−1 in apatite, 177 atoms g−1 yr−1 in kyanite, and 153 atoms g−1 yr−1 in garnet. These production rates are unexpectedly high compared with rates measured elsewhere in the world, and also compared with proposed element-specific production rates. For apatite and zircon, the data are sufficient to conclude that the 3He/10Be ratio increases with elevation. If this reflects different altitudinal scaling between production rates for the two isotopes then the SLHL production rates estimated by our approach are overestimates. We consider several hypotheses to explain these observations, including production of 3He via thermal neutron capture on 6Li, altitudinal variations in the energy spectrum of cosmic-ray neutrons, and the effects of snow cover. Because all of these effects are small, we conclude that the altitudinal variations in production rates of cosmogenic 3He and 10Be are distinct from each other at least at this location over the last ∼ 10 kyr. This conclusion calls into question commonly adopted geographic scaling laws for at least some cosmogenic nuclides. If confirmed, this distinction may provide a mechanism by which to obtain paleoelevation estimates.


This article was originally published in Earth and Planetary Science Letters. The full-text article from the publisher can be found here.

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Earth and Planetary Science Letters


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