Most terrestrial beryllium-10 (10Be) is produced by spallation of nitrogen and oxygen nuclei in the atmosphere by cosmic rays. The relatively high atmospheric production rate of 10Be (global mean of ~106 atoms cm−2 year−1) varies regionally by latitude by a factor of ~2 (Lal and Peters 1967). Meteoric 10Be is scavenged quickly from the atmosphere by aerosols and is transported to the Earth’s surface, mostly by precipitation. When 10Be falls onto land, it binds tightly to soil particles. Stable soil with prolonged exposure to rain becomes highly enriched in 10Be, whereas soil in areas of high erosion accumulates little 10Be. When 10Be falls on water, it eventually accumulates on sediments or in precipitates. Movement and cycling of 10Be in the Earth’s reservoirs has been reviewed in detail by Morris et al. (2002) and Willenbring and von Blanckenburg (2010).
In recent years, 10Be has been measured most widely in...