Neodymium isotope composition and rare earth element distribution of East Antarctic continental shelf and deep waters

Alex Griffiths, Myriam Lambelet, Kirsty Crocket, Richard Abell, Barry j. Coles, Katharina Kreissig, David Porter, Frank o. Nitsche, Mark Rehkämper, Tina Van de flierdt

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Circumpolar Deep Water (CDW) and Antarctic Bottom Water (AABW) play key roles in the Earth's climate system. Both water masses form critical components of the Antarctic Circumpolar Current and Meridional Overturning Circulation and therefore directly influence the large-scale redistribution of heat, nutrients and carbon. Reconstruction of past CDW transport and AABW production and export has been a key target in palaeoceanography. One promising proxy to achieve this has been the neodymium (Nd) isotope composition of seawater. The biogeochemical processes controlling Nd in the ocean, however, remain underconstrained, and modern observations of Nd isotopes in the Southern Ocean are still geographically limited.

To overcome this limitation, 61 seawater samples were collected for Nd isotope and rare earth element (REE) analysis at nine stations along the Wilkes Land continental margin and in the Australian-Antarctic Basin (65°S 125°E) near East Antarctica. The results show that the different water masses have the following Nd isotope characteristics: Antarctic Surface Water (AASW), εNd = −9.0 ± 1.0 (2SD; n = 22); Modified CDW (MCDW), εNd = −8.8 ± 0.8 (2SD; n = 22); AABW, εNd = −8.3 ± 0.5 (2SD; n = 17).

There is no evidence of continental REE inputs to surface waters on the Wilkes Land margin. Observed zonal variability of Nd isotope composition in AASW can be attributed to seasonal competition between the poleward flow of warm AASW from the AAG and the westward export of cold surface shelf waters by the Antarctic Slope Current.

In terms of deep and bottom waters, mixing of upwelled CDW with AASW and AABW exclusively controls the Nd isotope composition of MCDW, with no indication of boundary processes modifying the Nd isotope composition of MCDW as it encroaches the shelf or slope. The regional Nd isotope signature for AABW is intermediate between published data for the Atlantic sector AABW (εNd = −9.1 ± 0.7) and Pacific sector AABW (εNd = −7.4 ± 0.9). In the absence of active convection, this Nd isotope signature can be explained by a mixture of advected AABW from the Adélie Land coast with a more dominant component of local MCDW and CDW.

The data presented in this study constitute the first Nd isotope data set in this part of the Southern Ocean and suggest conservative behaviour of Nd in proximity to the old East Antarctic continent.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages14
JournalChemical Geololgy
Early online date17 Mar 2024
Publication statusPublished - 20 May 2024


  • neodymium isotopes
  • rare earth elements
  • east antartic continental shelf
  • Circumpolar Deep Water
  • antartic bottom water


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