High spatial resolution magnetic mapping using ultra-high sensitivity scanning SQUID microscopy on a speleothem from the Kingdom of Tonga, southern Pacific

Naoto Fukuyo, Hirokuni Oda, Yusuke Yokoyama, Geoffrey Clark, Yuhji Yamamoto

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


    Speleothems are ideal archives of environmental magnetism and paleomagnetism, since they retain continuous magnetic signals in stable conditions and can be used for reliable radiometric dating using U-series and radiocarbon methods. However, their weak magnetic signals hinder the widespread use of this archive in the field of geoscience. While previous studies successfully reconstructed paleomagnetic signatures and paleoenvironmental changes, the time resolutions presented were insufficient. Recently emerging scanning SQUID microscopy (SSM) in this field can image very weak magnetic fields while maintaining high spatial resolution that could likely overcome this obstacle. In this study, we employed SSM for high spatial resolution magnetic mapping on a stalagmite collected at Anahulu cave in Tongatapu Island, the Kingdom of Tonga. The average measured magnetic field after 5 mT alternating field demagnetization is ca. 0.27 nT with a sensor-to-sample distance of ~ 200 µm. A stronger magnetic field (average: ca. 0.62 nT) was observed above the grayish surface layer compared to that of the white inner part (average: ca. 0.09 nT) associated with the laminated structures of the speleothem at the submillimeter scale, which scanning resolution of the SSM in this study is comparable to the annual growth rates of the speleothem. The magnetization of the speleothem sample calculated from an inversion of isothermal remanent magnetization (IRM) also suggests that the magnetic mineral content in the surface layer is higher than the inner part. This feature was further investigated by low-temperature magnetometry. Our results show that the main magnetic carriers of the speleothem under study are magnetite and maghemite and it can contain hematite or ε-Fe O . The first-order reversal curve (FORC) measurements and the decomposition of IRM curves show that this speleothem contains a mixture of magnetic minerals with different coercivities and domain states. The contribution from maghemite to the total magnetization of the grayish surface layer was much higher than the white inner part. Such differences in magnetic mineralogy of the grayish surface layer from that of the inner part suggest that the depositional environment shifted and was likely changed due to the oxidative environment.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1-13
    JournalEarth, Planets and Space
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - 2021


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