Luminescence Dating in Fluvial Settings: Overcoming the Challenge of Partial Bleaching

  • Rachel K. SmedleyEmail author
  • Grace K. A. Skirrow
Part of the Geography of the Physical Environment book series (GEOPHY)


Optically stimulated luminescence (OSL) dating is a versatile technique that utilises the two most ubiquitous minerals on Earth (quartz or K-feldspar) for constraining the timing of sediment deposition. It has provided accurate ages in agreement with independent age control in many fluvial settings, but is often characterised by partial bleaching of individual grains. Partial bleaching can occur where sunlight exposure is limited and so only a portion of the grains in the sample was exposed to sunlight prior to burial, especially in sediment-laden, turbulent or deep water columns. OSL analysis on multiple grains can provide accurate ages for partially bleached sediments where the OSL signal intensity is dominated by a single brighter grain, but will overestimate the age where the OSL signal intensity is equally as bright (often typical of K-feldspar) or as dim (sometimes typical of quartz). In such settings, it is important to identify partial bleaching and the minimum dose population, preferably by analysing single grains, and applying the appropriate statistical age model to the dose population obtained for each sample. To determine accurate OSL ages using these age models, it is important to quantify the amount of scatter (or overdispersion) in the well-bleached part of the partially bleached dose distribution, which can vary between sediment samples depending upon the bedrock sources and transport histories of grains. Here, we discuss how the effects of partial bleaching can be easily identified and overcome to determine accurate ages. This discussion will therefore focus entirely on the burial dose determination for OSL dating, rather than the dose-rate, as only the burial doses are impacted by the effects of partial bleaching.


Optically stimulated luminescence dating OSL Partial bleaching Fluvial Single grains Age models 


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Geography and PlanningUniversity of LiverpoolLiverpoolUK

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