Red clayey paleosols that are chiefly the product of aerosolic dust deposition are interbedded in the Quaternary carbonate formations of the Bermuda oceanic island system. These paleosols provide a basis for reconstructing Quaternary atmospheric circulation patterns in the northwestern Atlantic. Geochemical analyses were performed on representative paleosol samples to identify their parent dust source. Fine-grained fractions were analyzed by energy-dispersive X ray fluorescence to determine trace element (Zr, Y, La, Ti, and Nb) concentrations and to derive geochemical signatures based on immobile element ratios. These ratios were compared with geochemical signatures determined for three possible sources of airborne dust: (1) Great Plains loess, (2) Mississippi River Valley loess, and (3) Saharan dust. The Zr/Y and Zr/La ratios provided the clearest distinction between the hypothesized dust sources. The low ratios in the paleosol B horizons most closely resemble Saharan dust in the <2-??m size class fraction. Contributions from the two North American loessial source areas could not be clearly detected. Thus Bermuda paleosols have a predominantly Saharan aerosolic dust signature. Saharan dust deposition on Bermuda during successive Quaternary glacial periods is consistent with patterns of general circulation models, which indicate that during glacial maxima the northeast summer trade winds were stronger than at present and reached latitudes higher than 30 ?? N despite lower-than-present sea surface temperatures in the North Atlantic.
Additional publication details
Origin of Bermuda's clay-rich Quaternary paleosols and their paleoclimatic significance