Attraction in the Dark: The Magnetism of Speleothems

No matter how quiet and pristine a cave setting may appear, all speleothems contain assemblages of magnetic minerals. These iron oxide minerals are derived largely from overlying soils, though minor fractions may come from the residuum of dissolved bedrock, reworked sediment carried by episodic floods, geomicrobiological activity, and even windblown dust. Regardless of their origin, these minerals become aligned with Earth’s ambient magnetic field before they are fixed within a speleothem’s growing carbonate matrix. Here, we describe how the magnetism of stalagmites and flowstone can be used to chronicle high-resolution geomagnetic behavior and environmental change.

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