This study presents osmium (Os) isotope data for recent growth surfaces of hydrogenetic ferromanganese (Fe-Mn) crusts from the Pacific, Atlantic and Indian Oceans. In general, these data indicate a relatively uniform Os isotopic composition for modern seawater, but suggest that North Atlantic seawater is slightly more radiogenic than that of the Pacific and Indian Oceans. The systematic difference in the Os isotopic composition between the major oceans probably reflects a greater input of old continental material with a high Re/Os ratio in the North Atlantic Ocean, consistent with the distribution of Nd and Pb isotopes. This spatial variation in the Os isotope composition in seawater is consistent with a residence time for Os of between 2 and 60 kyr. Indian Ocean samples show no evidence of a local source of radiogenic Os, which suggests that the present-day riverine input from the Himalaya-Tibet region is not a major source for Os. Recently formed Fe-Mn crusts from the TAG hydrothermal field in the North Atlantic yield an Os isotopic composition close to that of modern seawater, which indicates that, in this area, the input of unradiogenic Os from the hydrothermal alteration of oceanic crust is small. However, some samples from the deep Pacific (???4 km) possess a remarkably unradiogenic Os isotope composition (187Os/186Os ratios as low as 4.3). The compositional control of Os incorporation into the crusts and mixing relationships suggest that this unradiogenic composition is most likely due to the direct incorporation of micrometeoritic or abyssal peridotite particles, rather than indicating the presence of an unradiogenic deep-water mass. Moreover, this unradiogenic signal appears to be temporary, and local, and has had little apparent effect on the overall evolution of seawater. These results confirm that input of continental material through erosion is the dominant source of Os in seawater, but it is not clear whether global Os variations are due to the input of mantle or meteoritic material, or simply indicate that the continental source itself is not uniform.
Additional publication details
Osmium isotope variations in the oceans recorded by Fe-Mn crusts