Open University Uranium-Series Laboratory  
  Earth and Environmental Sciences, The Open University, Milton Keynes, UK  

Why Uranium Series?  

Uranium-series research carried out at OUUSL in collaboration with other researchers, contributes directly to meeting some of the challenges in paleo-environment, paleo-anthropology and volcanic studies.

U-series dates provide the absolute time-scales that are essential to the interpretation and unbiased correlation of records of natural climate variability over the past 100y to 300Ky. Accurate U-series age ‘pin-points’ form the basis not only to the calibration of computer models (hind-casting) but also as detailed templates for future warmer (or colder!) periods
U–series methodology can provide an accurate and independant time-basis for secular or periodic or random variations in other parameters and proxies that are essential in many fields of climate change research. Climate change is now accepted as reality and one of the most important parameters that still needs to be constrained is the rate of change. Rate of change gives important information on the type of process that can cause that change (slow tectonic processes, faster variations in insolation, catastrophic discharge of glacial lakes or volcanic eruptions, recent anthropogenic change).
Beyond the range of instrumental data, a large number of relative or ‘floating’ methods have been developed as a time-base for climate proxies. U–series methodology is a direct (‘absolute’) method that links instrumental records to proxy records into and beyond the Last Global Interglacial, and can ‘anchor’ relative or floating methods with firm dates.
Rate of change data will also inform policy regarding the required speed of implementation of remedial action on CO2 targets and civil engineering works.

Accurately-dated proxies in stalagmite climate archives from many climate zones on Earth are indispensable in the reconstructions of physical climate parameters. Lake sediments give through their proxy record, but also through their wealth of information about flora from pollen, a vivid picture of life in many climate zones. Such lake sediment records can be dated by U-series and accurate dates allow comparison with other records.
Many climate records are isolated geographically and accurate U-series dating allows correlation of disparate records and identification of ‘tele-connections’ with events in other areas on Earth. Tele-connections have been proposed between ENSO and NOA (PAGES project) but can only be substantiated if records can be chronologically correlated.
We are using U-series methods to determine the crystallisation ages of minerals in recent volcanic rocks and this information is fundamental to understanding the evolution of magma  and is an important factor in assessing volcanic hazards.
U-series analytical techniques have been used to track radionuclides in water (sea, river, groundwater) and could be used to increase confidence in some aspects of nuclear waste disposal.
We have the analytical technology to determine the speciation of some radionuclides in various types of water and the computer models to construct a thermodynamic framework for modelling solubility and residence time.
For science-based archaeology, we have a good collaboration track record and contributed to the development of the Diffusion/Adsorption method for calculating bone ages.
Training and teaching PGRS is an important part of our activities and helps to prepare the next generation of environmental scientists. This is arguably the most efficient method of knowledge transfer.
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© Peter van Calsteren
last updated: 3 January, 2012 14:32