Journal of Paleolimnology

, Volume 62, Issue 3, pp 259–278 | Cite as

Palaeomagnetism for chronologies of recent alpine lake sediments: successes and limits

  • C. CrouzetEmail author
  • B. Wilhelm
  • P. Sabatier
  • F. Demory
  • N. Thouveny
  • C. Pignol
  • J.-L. Reyss
  • O. Magand
  • A. Jeltsch-Thömmes
  • M. Bajard
  • L. Augustin
  • F. Arnaud
Original paper


Chronologies of lake-sediment records covering the last centuries to millennia are usually based on both short-lived radionuclides and radiocarbon dating. However, beyond the range of short-lived radionuclides, age model accuracy often suffers from large radiocarbon uncertainties. For high-altitude records, this issue is even more prominent as terrestrial plant fragments for radiocarbon dating are often lacking due to the sparse vegetation in such environments. In this study, we evaluate the potential of the geomagnetic field secular variations as a complementary tool to establish more robust age–depth relationships. Our palaeomagnetic study, applied to five high-altitude lakes from the western European Alps, first shows that recent unconsolidated sediments can carry stable remanent magnetization. The analysis of the magnetic parameters indicates that low-coercivity pseudo-single domain magnetite grains carry the natural magnetization. Nevertheless, the quality of palaeomagnetic secular variation records varies from one lake to another. This quality can be illustrated through the calculation of the declination/inclination maximum angular variations and their comparison to the expected value. Compared with available models, the declination variations are usually too large and the inclination too high. We discuss the validity of palaeosecular variation (PSV) of the Earth’s magnetic field regarding rock magnetism, magnetization processes and possible deformation during coring. From a magnetic point of view, the quality of data is variable, but the characteristic remanent magnetization direction is consistent at site level between neighbouring lakes and with the reference curve, suggesting that geomagnetic field secular variations are approximately recorded. Finally, we attempt to correlate the declination/inclination variations of the characteristic remanent magnetization measured in the five records to the reference geomagnetic model to provide additional chronological markers for age–depth modelling. These stratigraphic chrono-markers appear in systematic agreement with our previous chronological data and enable a reduction of dating uncertainties up to 30% when including these chrono-markers in the age–depth modelling. This agreement supports the interpretation that PSV may have been recorded more or less accurately depending on the studied lake. Therefore, coupled with a comprehensive understanding through other analysis (sedimentology, dating, geochemistry), PSV can be used to improve the age models in the more favourable cases.


Paleomagnetism Secular variation Lake sediment Dating Magnetization Alps 



This work was supported by Université Savoie Mont Blanc BQR internal grants. Gravity coring was achieved with the support of the Edytem and Climcore Equipex coring facilities. The authors thank the CNRS-INSU ARTEMIS national radiocarbon AMS measurement program at the Laboratoire de Mesure 14C (LMC14) in the CEA Institute at Saclay (French Atomic Energy Commission). The authors thank the Laboratoire Souterrain de Modane (LSM) facilities for the gamma spectrometry measurements. We acknowledge two anonymous reviewers, the editor and the associated editor for fruitful comments.

Supplementary material

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Supplementary material 1 (PDF 20792 kb)
10933_2019_87_MOESM2_ESM.pdf (461 kb)
Supplementary material 2 (PDF 461 kb)
10933_2019_87_MOESM3_ESM.pdf (364 kb)
Supplementary material 3 (PDF 363 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Université Savoie Mont BlancUniversité Grenoble Alpes, CNRS, IRD, IFFSTAR, ISTerreLe Bourget Du LacFrance
  2. 2.Université Grenoble Alpes, CNRS, IRD, Grenoble INP (Institute of Engineering Univ. Grenoble Alpes), IGEGrenobleFrance
  3. 3.Université Grenoble AlpesUniversité Savoie Mont Blanc, CNRS, UMR 5204, EDYTEMChambéry CedexFrance
  4. 4.Aix Marseille Univ, CNRS, IRD, INRA, Coll France, CEREGEAix-En-ProvenceFrance
  5. 5.LSCEUniversité de Versailles Saint-Quentin CEA-CNRSGif-Sur-Yvette CedexFrance
  6. 6.Climate and Environmental Physics, Physics InstituteUniversity of BernBernSwitzerland
  7. 7.Oeschger Centre for Climate Change ResearchUniversity of BernBernSwitzerland
  8. 8.Centre for Earth Evolution and DynamicsUniversity of OsloOsloNorway
  9. 9.Division technique de l’INSUCentre de Carottage et de Forage National, CNRSLa Seyne sur MerFrance

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