Continuous color model as a tool to improve speleothem age model development

Celia Campa-Bousoño, Ángel García-Pérez, Ana Moreno, Miguel Iglesias, Hai Cheng, R. Lawrence Edwards, Heather Stoll

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Because they can archive a variety of geochemical proxies and be precisely and accurately dated with the U-Th decay series chronometer, stalagmites are widely used for paleoclimate reconstructions. However, limitations in the use of this chronometer arise because U-Th dating is analytically time consuming, expensive, and requires a relatively large sample size. These limitations restrict the number of absolute dates usually obtained, which can result in significant uncertainties in the age model and inhibit the ability to archive high resolution records of environmental variability, particularly in those stalagmites where there are variations in growth rate not constrained by U-Th dates. Here, we explore the relationship between stalagmite color and growth rate. Consequently, we evaluate the use of a simple, practically non-destructive approach to model the age-depth relationship of stalagmites using the sample color to provide a continuous record of growth rate. The method was developed by comparing high-resolution color images with pre-determined U-Th dates along the growth axes of seven stalagmites. The obtained results suggest that prior to dating, a color-derived, continuous growth rate model may be used to identify important changes in growth rate which may aid in the determination of the most efficacious locations for U-Th dating. Further, continuous color-derived interpolations between U-Th derived dates may be superior to traditional linear interpolation methods. Such an approach has the potential to greatly improve a researcher’s ability to efficiently choose sampling locations for more precise, albeit laborious and costly, U-Th dating.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)313-326
Number of pages14
JournalInternational Journal of Speleology
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was financially supported by OPERA (CTM2013-48639-C2-1-R), University of Oviedo (UNOV-16-RLD-UE-3), PYCACHU (PID2019-106050RB-I00), and the National Natural Science Foundation of China (NSFC 41888101). We are grateful to A. Martínez (SCTs, Universidad de Oviedo), E. Cabal (Dep. geología, Universidad de Oviedo), J. Guitián, O. Kost and J. Sliwinski (Dpt. of earth sciences, ETH) for their help with the laboratory work. J. Pisonero (Dept. Física, Universidad de Oviedo) and B. Revels (Dpt. of Earth Sciences, ETH) are acknowledged for their help. We thank reviewers for their comments that significantly improved this paper.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021, Societa Speleologica Italiana. All rights reserved.


  • Age-modeling
  • Color
  • Growth-rate
  • Stalagmite


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