Closing in on the marine 238U/235U budget

Morten B. Andersen, Derek Vance, J.L. Morford, E. Bura-Nakic, Sebastian Breitenbach, L. Och

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

74 Citations (Scopus)


Significant redox-driven variability in the ratio between the two long-lived U parent isotopes, 238U and 235U, has recently been discovered. Thus, the 238U/235U system provides a promising newtool to evaluate redox changes in the past using the geological record. For such reconstruction to be successful, however, the modern marine U isotope cycle needs to be quantified. Here we compile U isotope ratios for the global dissolved riverine U flux. A total of 30 river samples covering a range of catchment sizes, latitudes, climates and continents were measured. Although variability is observed, the mean 238U/235U in the dissolved riverine U flux entering the ocean is close to the average for the continental crust, suggesting only minor 238U/235U fractionation during U weathering and transport. This riverine data is complemented by U isotope data in reducing sediments, the main oceanic U sink. Reducing sediments froman oxygen minimum zone off the coast of Washington State USA, show authigenic U accumulation with elevated 238U/235U compared to seawater, consistent with observations in other reducing marine sediments. However, these data also highlight that isotope partitioning between sediment and porewater
can cause variability in the 238U/235U of the accumulated authigenic U. The new data from this study, placed in the context of the growing body of data on modern marine U isotope cycling, suggest that U could be at steady state in the modern ocean.
Original languageEnglish
JournalChemical Geology
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2015


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