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Publication Detail
Sand residence times of one million years in the Namib Sand Sea from cosmogenic nuclides
  • Publication Type:
    Journal article
  • Publication Sub Type:
    Journal Article
  • Authors:
    Vermeesch P, Fenton CR, Kober F, Wiggs GFS, Bristow CS, Xu S
  • Publication date:
  • Pagination:
    862, 865
  • Journal:
    Nature Geoscience
  • Volume:
  • Issue:
  • Status:
  • Print ISSN:
The Namib Sand Sea is one of the world's oldest and largest sand deserts1, yet little is known about the source of the sand in this, or other large deserts2. In particular, it is unclear whether the sand is derived from local sediment or comes from remote sources. The relatively uniform appearance of dune sands and low compositional variability within dune fields3 make it difficult to address this question. Here we combine cosmogenic-nuclide measurements and geochronological techniques to assess the provenance and migration history of sand grains in the Namib Sand Sea. We use U-Pb geochronology of detrital zircons to show that the primary source of sand is the Orange River at the southern edge of the Namib desert. Our burial ages obtained from measurements of the cosmogenic nuclides 10Be, 26Al and 21Ne suggest that the residence time of sand within the sand sea is at least one million years. We therefore conclude that, despite large climatic changes in the Namib region associated with Quaternary -interglacial cycles4,5, the area currently occupied by the Namib Sand Sea has never been entirely devoid of sand during the past million years. © 2010 Macmillan Publishers Limited. All rights reserved.
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