Analysis of dissolved noble gases in the pore water of lacustrine sediments

Matthias S. Brennwald, Markus Hofer, Frank Peeters, Werner Aeschbach-Hertig, Kuno Strassmann, Rolf Kipfer, Dieter Imboden

Limnol. Oceanogr. Methods 1:51-62 (2003) | DOI: 10.4319/lom.2003.1.51

ABSTRACT: Here we present a new method for the sampling and quantitative extraction of dissolved He, Ne, Ar, Kr, and Xe from lake sediment samples leading to determinations of porewater noble gas concentration profiles and the isotopic ratios 3He/4He, 20Ne/22Ne, and 40Ar/36Ar. Bulk sediment is transferred from a sediment core into standard Cu sample tubes without exposure to the atmosphere or other gas reservoirs. The noble gases are then extracted from the porewater by degassing the sediment in an evacuated extraction vessel and analyzed following standard mass spectrometric procedures. In tests of the new method using 0.8 to 1.4 m long sediment cores from two Swiss lakes, analytical uncertainties were only slightly greater than those of standard water samples. The majority of porewater noble gas concentrations and isotopic ratios were found to correspond closely to those measured in the overlying lake water. Because these values reflect water temperature and salinity during atmospheric equilibration at the lake surface, historical conditions are expected to be archived further downcore in the sediment porewater. This method therefore has great potential for paleolimnological reconstructions. The formation of methane bubbles in anoxic sediment layers is one process that may alter gas distributions. However because the lighter noble gases are most sensitive to degassing effects, noble gas data can be used to detect this process. In addition, noble gas data can yield information on the transport processes occurring in the sediment pore space and on the input of water or gas to the sediment from external sources.