Terrigenous helium in deep-sea sediments

Franco Marcantonio, Sean Higgins, Robert F. Anderson, Martin Stute, Peter Schlosser, E. Troy Rasbury

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Scopus citations


We have measured the isotope ratios of helium contained in various terrigenous materials that contribute to deep-sea sedments. These materials include ice-rafted debris from the North Atlantic, Chinese Loess, and sediment collected at or near the mouths of three large rivers: the Amazon, the Ganges, and the Yangtze. We observe terrigenous 3He/4He ratios that vary from 1.8 × 10-9 to 4.6 × 10-7, i.e., values that are higher than the theoretically-derived range of 10-9 to 10-8. Atlantic and Pacific deep-sea sediment 3He/4He ratios can be explained by mixing of helium from similar extraterrestrial but different terrigenous sources. Terrigenous sources for North Atlantic and North Pacific sediments are characterized by 3He and 4He contents that are higher, and 3He/4He ratios that are lower, than those for central and eastern equatorial Pacific sediments. This is consistent with the supply to the North Atlantic and North Pacific oceans of older cratonic continental material that contains high amounts of in situ-produced nucleogenic and radiogenic helium. Terrigenous material transported to central and eastern equatorial Pacific sediments contains lower amounts of 3He and 4He and higher 3He/4He ratios, indicative of supply from a more juvenile Andean source. In the equatorial Atlantic (core V31-135), we have used previously-published 230Th data to determine an extraterrestrial 3He flux of (1.16 ± 0.15) × 10-12 cm3STP.cm-2.ka-1, within error of that previously determined in sediments from the equatorial Pacific Ocean ([0.78 ± 0.29] × 10-13 cm3STP.cm-2.ka-1; Marcantonio et al., 1996).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1535-1543
Number of pages9
JournalGeochimica et Cosmochimica Acta
Issue number9
StatePublished - May 1998
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geochemistry and Petrology


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