Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Elemental Concentrations and Carbon and Oxygen Isotope Ratios in Mammillary Calcite from Devils Hole and Devils Hole II, Nevada, USA

February 17, 2022

Elemental concentrations and stable oxygen and carbon isotope ratios are reported for five mammillary calcite specimens collected from the groundwater-filled fissures Devils Hole and Devils Hole II in the southern Amargosa Desert, south-western Nevada. Previous studies of these specimens yielded oxygen and carbon isotope chronologies of paleoclimatic and paleo hydrologic conditions over an approximately 500,000-year time period as defined by uranium series dates (Winograd and others, 1992, 2006; Landwehr and others, 1997, 2011). The elemental concentration measurements reveal additional chronologies in the mammillary calcite. The specimens were sampled by milling contiguous 0.050-inch-thick layers (1.27 millimeters) oriented approximately parallel to the free, wetted growth faces of the specimens. For three of the five specimens (cores DH-10 and DH-11, hand specimen DH-7), the oxygen and carbon isotope measurements reproduce measurements of the same milled samples made by Landwehr and others (1997) and Coplen and others (2021). For the remaining specimens (hand specimens DHC2-3 and DHC2-8), the oxygen and carbon isotope measurements reproduce isotopic records published by Coplen and others (2021) but at a coarser resolution because Coplen and others (2021) analyzed milled layers of 0.010-inch thickness (0.25 millimeters). The elemental chronologies can be dated by referring to prior studies. For DH-11, uranium series dates and interpolated ages are given by Landwehr and others (1997). For DH-7 and DH-10, ages obtained by matching oxygen and carbon isotope chronologies to the dated chronologies of DH-11 are given by Coplen and others (2021). For DHC2-3 and DHC2-8, ages can be obtained by matching the oxygen and carbon isotope chronologies presented here to the higher-resolution dated chronologies provided by Coplen and others (2021). However, age assignments should be made with caution (see, for example, Moseley and others, 2016). Devils Hole and Devils Hole II are extensional tectonic fissures that open to the land surface adjacent to the major Ash Meadows ground-water discharge area. Devils Hole II is approximately 200 meters north of Devils Hole. The fissures intersect the regional groundwater table at about 17 meters and 36 meters below land surface at Devils Hole and Devils Hole II, respectively. These localities have long been important in paleoclimate research because mammillary calcite phreatically precipitated on the fissure walls has yielded a dated continuous paleotemperature proxy record that spans several glacial cycles (Winograd and others, 1988, 1992, 2006; Ludwig and others, 1992; Coplen and others, 1994; Riggs and others, 1994; Szabo and others, 1994; Plummer and others, 2000; Kolesar and Riggs, 2004; Moseley and others, 2016; Coplen and others, 2021). References listed chronologically: Winograd, I.J., Szabo, B.J., Coplen, T.B., and Riggs, A.C., 1988, A 250,000-year climatic record from Great Basin vein calcite: implications for Milankovitch theory: Science, v. 242, p. 1275-1280, doi: 10.1126/science.242.4883.1275. Ludwig, K.R., Simmons, K.R., Szabo, B.J., Winograd, I.J., Landwehr, J.M., Riggs, A.C., and Hoffman, R.J., 1992, Mass-spectrometric Th-230-U-234-U-238 dating of the Devils Hole calcite vein: Science, v. 258, p. 284-287, doi: 10.1126/science.258.5080.284. Winograd, I.J., Coplen, T.B., Landwehr, J.M., Riggs, A.C., Ludwig, K.R., Szabo, B.J., Kolesar, P.T., and Revesz, K.M., 1992, Continuous 500,000-year climate record from vein calcite in Devils Hole, Nevada: Science, v. 258, p. 255-260, doi: 10.1126/science.258.5080.255. Coplen, T.B., Winograd, I.J., Landwehr, J.M., and Riggs, A.C., 1994, 500,000-year stable carbon isotope record from Devils Hole, Nevada: Science, v. 263, p. 361-365, doi: 10.1126/science.263.5145.361. Szabo, B.J., Kolesar, P.T., Riggs, A.C., Winograd, I.J., and Ludwig, K.R., 1994, Paleoclimatic inferences from a 120,000-year calcite record of water-table fluctuation in Browns Room of Devils Hole, Nevada: Quaternary Research, v. 41, p. 59-69, doi: 10.1006/qres.1994.1007. Riggs, A.C., Carr, W.J., Kolesar, P.T., and Hoffman, R.J., 1994, Tectonic speleogenesis of Devils Hole, Nevada, and implications for hydrogeology and the development of long, continuous paleoenvironmental records: Quaternary Research, v. 42, p. 241-254, doi: 10.1006/qres.1994.1075. Landwehr, J.M., Coplen, T.B., Ludwig, K.R., Winograd, I.J., and Riggs, A.C., 1997, Data for Devils Hole core DH-11: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 97-792, 8 p., pubs.usgs.gov/of/1997/ofr97-792/. Plummer, L.N., Busenberg, E., and Riggs, A.C., 2000, In-situ growth of calcite at Devils Hole, Nevada: comparison of field and laboratory rates to a 500,000 year record of near-equilibrium calcite growth: Aquatic Geochemistry, v. 6, p. 257-274, doi: 10.1023/A:1009627710476. Kolesar, P.T., and Riggs, A.C., 2004, Influence of depositional environment on Devils Hole calcite morphology and petrology, in Sasowsky, I.D., and Mylroie, J., eds., Studies of cave sediments: physical and chemical records of paleoclimate: New York, Kluwer Academic/Plenum Publishers, p. 227-241, doi: 10.1007/978-1-4419-9118-8_12. Winograd, I.J., Landwehr, J.M., Coplen, T.B., Sharp, W.D., Riggs, A.C., Ludwig, K.R., and Kolesar, P.T., 2006, Devils Hole, Nevada, delta 18-O record extended to the mid-Holocene: Quaternary Research, v. 66, p. 202-212, doi: 10.1016/j.yqres.2006.06.003. Landwehr, J.M., Sharp, W.D., Coplen, T.B., Ludwig, K.R., and Winograd, I.J., 2011, The chronology for the delta 18-O record from Devils Hole, Nevada, extended into the mid-Holocene: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 2011-1082, 5 p., pubs.usgs.gov/of/2011/1082/. Moseley, G.E., Edwards, R.L., Wendt, K.A., Cheng, H., Dublyansky, Y., Lu, Y., Boch, R., and Spotl, C., 2016, Reconciliation of the Devils Hole climate record with orbital forcing: Science, v. 351, p. 165-168, doi: 10.1126/science.aad4132. Coplen, T.B., Winograd, I.J., and Sharp, W.D., 2021, Stable carbon and oxygen isotope paleoclimate records of U.S. Geological Survey-collected samples from Devils Hole and Devils Hole Cave 2, Nevada: U.S. Geological Survey data release, https://doi.org/10.5066/P9S8722D.