, Volume 50, Issue 1, pp 3–11 | Cite as

Orbital frequencies in the carbonate sedimentary record: distorted by diagenesis?

  • Hildegard WestphalEmail author
  • Florian Böhm
  • Stefan Bornholdt
Original Article


The most important archive of Earth’s climate change through geologic history is the sedimentary rock record. Rhythmic sedimentary alternations are usually interpreted as a consequence of periodic variations in the orbital parameters of the Earth. This interpretation enables the application of cyclostratigraphy as a very precise chronometer, when based on the assumption that orbital frequencies are faithfully recorded in the sedimentary archive. However, there are numerous uncertainties with the application of this concept. Particularly in carbonates, sediment properties such as mineralogical composition and fossil associations are severely altered during post-depositional alteration (diagenesis). We here point out that the assumption of a 1:1 recording of orbital signals in many cases is questionable for carbonate rhythmites. We use computer simulations to show the effect of diagenetic overprint on records of orbital signals in the carbonate record. Such orbital signals may be distorted in terms of frequency, amplitude, and phase by diagenetic processes, and cycles not present in the insolation record may emerge. This questions the routine use of carbonate rhythmites for chronostratigraphic dating.


Limestone-marl alternations Differential diagenesis Computer simulation Orbital frequencies Rhythmites 



The authors are indebted to Axel Munnecke for inspiring discussions and revision of a previous version of the manuscript. Reviews by Roy Plotnick and Graham Weedon considerably improved this paper. This project was supported by the German Science Foundation DFG (We-2492/1).


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  • Hildegard Westphal
    • 1
    Email author
  • Florian Böhm
    • 2
  • Stefan Bornholdt
    • 3
  1. 1.Department for PaleontologyUniversity of ErlangenErlangenGermany
  2. 2.GEOMAR Research CenterKielGermany
  3. 3.Interdisciplinary Center for BioinformaticsUniversity of LeipzigLeipzigGermany

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