Magnetic mineral assemblages in soils and paleosols as the basis for paleoprecipitation proxies: A review of magnetic methods and challenges

Daniel P. Maxbauer, Joshua M. Feinberg, David L. Fox

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

101 Scopus citations


Magnetic iron oxide minerals, principally magnetite, maghemite, hematite, and goethite are formed in well-drained soils in response to a suite of physical, chemical, and biological factors. Despite a wide range of complexity in the pedogenic processes that lead to magnetic mineral formation, dissolution, and transformation, there are well-documented empirical relationships between various magnetic mineral assemblages in soils with environmental and climatic conditions. Recently there has been an increase in the number of quantitative magnetic paleoprecipitation proxies that have been developed, and there is great potential for magnetic methods to be used in the geologic record to develop reconstructions of past climates. Magnetic paleoprecipitation proxies have been widely utilized in Quaternary or younger loess-paleosol systems; however, they have yet to be utilized in the pre-Quaternary fossil record. Future studies of magnetic mineralogy of soils and paleosols should aim to explore non-loessic modern soils and pre-Quaternary paleosols with more focus on understanding the interaction between magnetic mineral assemblages and soil moisture. Applications of existing and novel magnetic paleoprecipitation proxies in the fossil record should prove to be a valuable resource for paleoclimatologists.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)28-48
Number of pages21
JournalEarth-Science Reviews
StatePublished - Apr 1 2016

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors wish to thank Brandy Toner and Jake Bailey for discussion that helped to shape early versions of this work. Subir Banerjee, Christoph Geiss, and David Heslop contributed thoughtful comments that greatly improved this review. DPM acknowledges funding provided by the Richard C. Dennis Fellowship through the UMN Department of Earth Sciences and the UMN Stanwood Johnston Fellowship. This is IRM contribution 1510.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016 Elsevier B.V.


  • Environmental magnetism
  • Iron oxides
  • Paleoprecipitation
  • Paleosols
  • Proxy
  • Soil magnetism


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