The influence of weathering process on riverine osmium isotopes in a basaltic terrain

Gannoun, Abdelmouhcine; Burton, Kevin W.; Vigier, Nathalie; Gíslason, Sigurdur R.; Rogers, Nick; Mokadem, Fatima and Sigfússon, Bergur (2006). The influence of weathering process on riverine osmium isotopes in a basaltic terrain. Earth and Planetary Science Letters, 243(3-4) pp. 732–748.



This study presents Os isotope and comprehensive major and trace element data for the dissolved load, suspended particulates and bedload for Icelandic rivers, draining predominantly basaltic catchments that range in age from historic to ca. 12 Ma. Hydrothermal waters and precipitation have also been analysed. Both Os and Re concentrations are greater in the suspended load than the bedload, while Re / Os ratios are lower, suggesting that both elements are concentrated in weathering resistant minerals. Despite this elemental fractionation the suspended particulates and bedload for each river yield indistinguishable 187Os / 188Os isotope compositions that range from 0.136 to 0.292. In contrast, the dissolved load (< 0.2 μm filtered) often possesses a significantly more radiogenic Os isotope composition than the corresponding suspended or bed load with 187Os / 188Os ratios ranging from 0.15 to 1.04. The isotope and elemental data for the dissolved load can be explained in terms of an unradiogenic contribution from congruent basalt weathering (and/or hydrothermal input) and a radiogenic contribution that arises from two distinct processes. For the glacier-fed rivers there is a covariation between 187Os / 188Os and the extent of glacial cover in the catchment, and this is most readily explained by the entrainment of seawater aerosols into precipitation and subsequent glacial melting. While for direct-runoff (and spring-fed rivers) there is a covariation between 187Os/188Os and the age of the bedrock in the catchment, that cannot be explained by congruent weathering of old basalt. Calculations indicate that those direct-runoff rivers with radiogenic 187Os/188Os values are also undersaturated with respect to the primary basalt minerals olivine, pyroxene and plagioclase, indicating that these phases are unstable and prone to preferential dissolution. Published Re–Os isotope data indicate that the same phases possess exceptionally high 187Re / 188Os ratios and thus evolve to radiogenic 187Os/188Os compositions in very short time intervals. Taken together, these results indicate that incongruent (preferential) weathering of certain primary basalt minerals can impart a radiogenic Os isotope composition to the dissolved riverine load. Nevertheless, overall the Os isotope signal to the Oceans from Icelandic rivers is little affected because rivers with unradiogenic 187Os/188Os values and a high discharge dominate the Os flux.

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