Non-Invasive Sediment Monitoring Methods

Current and Future Tools for High-Resolution Climate Studies
  • Joseph D. Ortiz
  • Frank R. Rack


Over the past three decades, great strides have been made toward real-time characterization of deep-sea sediments. Significant improvements in core quality and recovery related to the development of the DSDP hydraulic piston corer (HPC) and the DSDP/ODP advanced piston corer (APC) paved the way for the evolution of non- invasive measurement systems. Non-invasive techniques provide cost-effective use of otherwise expensive sea time, and leave sediments undisturbed for additional post-cruise study. These methods revolutionize our ability to characterize sediment properties. Suddenly, it has become possible to correlate at high resolution between geographically separated sites, and develop detailed proxies of physical, geochemical, and environmental processes. While previous generations of scientists were forced to extrapolate using low resolution data of variable quality, today we have a growing abundance of high-quality, closely-spaced, co-located measurements that can be applied in many ways. Data types now routinely available include: gamma-ray attenuation density, acoustic properties, magnetic susceptibility, natural gamma emissions, diffuse spectral reflectance and sediment resistivity. Non-invasive measurements allow shipboard scientists to document full recovery of sediment sequences recovered by drillship. This enables correlation among piston cores, mapping of downhole variability, development of detailed age models, and characterization of sediment mineralogy as well as physical and optical properties at centimeter to decimeter scale. Composite stratigraphic sections, created by matching variations in sediment properties from multiple holes at a given site, can be combined with age information to transform depth profiles into time series useful for spectral analyses. These composite sections are also useful for developing synthetic seismograms to integrate coring results with regionally extensive geophysical data. This suite of accomplishments make these methodologies among the tools of choice for characterizing sub- Milankovitch and Millennial-scale climatic variability.

Future objectives related to the evolution of these methods should focus on improved calibration and intercalibration protocols for existing systems and the deployment of innovative new measurement techniques. Many of the new techniques on the horizon will improve our ability to image sediment in two or three dimensions. Important advancements will include the deployment of a variety of digital cameras for archiving visual information, confocal laser macroscopes for studies of sediment microfabric, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) techniques for estimating porosity in volume or cross sectional view, and a new generation of X-ray methods (Scanning XRF and CT-Scan) for elemental estimation and characterization of density variations related to ice-rafted debris (IRD), bioturbation and compositional changes.


Magnetic Susceptibility Ocean Drilling Program Natural Gamma Split Core Shipboard Scientific Party 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1999

Authors and Affiliations

  • Joseph D. Ortiz
    • 1
  • Frank R. Rack
    • 2
  1. 1.Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia UniversityPalisadesUSA
  2. 2.Joint Oceanographic Institutions, Inc.USA

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