Calibration of the dual clumped isotope thermometer for carbonates

Jens Fiebig*, Mathieu Daëron, Miguel Bernecker, Weifu Guo, Gaby Schneider, Ronny Boch, Stefano M. Bernasconi, Josue Jautzy, Martin Dietzel

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The Δ47 (paleo)thermometer has opened a new avenue to determine carbonate formation temperatures independent of the oxygen isotopic composition of the fluid from which the carbonate crystallized. A major limitation of this thermometer is related to kinetic effects if homogeneous isotopic equilibrium is not attained during carbonate precipitation. Dual clumped isotope thermometry – the high-precision analysis of Δ48 along with Δ47 in CO2 evolved from phosphoric acid digestion of carbonates – makes it possible to resolve temperature from the kinetic information recorded in an individual carbonate phase. Therefore, it provides a new opportunity to identify (bio)mineralization pathways and to determine carbonate formation temperatures devoid of a kinetic bias, based solely on isotopic analysis of a single carbonate phase. Identification of the nature and extent of kinetic effects as well as the reconstruction of accurate formation temperatures requires knowledge of the position of equilibrium in Δ47 vs Δ48 space. Here, we present Δ47 and Δ48 data of carbonates that were previously considered as having crystallized closest to equilibrium in a temperature range of 8 to 1100 °C. Across this range, the temperature dependences of Δ47 and Δ48 are best expressed by the following fourth order polynomials of 1/T: Δ47 (CDES 90) (‰) = 1.038 (−5.897 1/T − 3.521 103 1/T2 + 2.391 107 1/T3 − 3.541 109 1/T4) + 0.1856 Δ48 (CDES 90) (‰) = 1.028 (6.002 1/T − 1.299 104 1/T2 + 8.996 106 1/T3 − 7.423 108 1/T4) + 0.1245 with CDES 90 representing the Carbon Dioxide Equilibrium Scale at a reaction temperature of 90 °C. In its entire temperature range, our Δ47 (CDES 90) - T - relationship agrees within 2 ppm with two previous Δ47 (I-CDES) - T - relationships reported by Jautzy et al. (2020) and Anderson et al. (2021). Accuracy of our proposed Δ47 (CDES 90) − Δ48 (CDES 90) equilibrium relationship is independently confirmed by additional dual clumped isotope data of experimental and geothermal carbonates which precipitated from potentially equilibrated dissolved inorganic carbon pools at a temperature range of 25–100 °C. Furthermore, we reprocessed original dual clumped isotope data of natural carbonates (Bajnai et al., 2020) and compared their composition to the position of equilibrium in Δ47 vs Δ48 space. These results corroborate preliminary evidence that the hydration/hydroxylation reactions became rate-limiting during the calcification of a speleothem-like sample, a warm water coral, a cold water coral and a brachiopod, finally evoking significant departures of carbonate-Δ47 and -Δ48 from dual clumped isotope equilibrium. An anti-clumped Δ48 value of −419 (±16) ppm (95% confidence interval level) is obtained for a technical calcite that was precipitated by the injection of CO2 into a Ca(OH)2-saturated solution. Its negative Δ48 value largely arises from a combinatorial effect, i.e. the carbonate oxygen derives from two sources with different bulk isotopic compositions. Besides the identification of the nature and the extent of (bio)mineralization kinetics and the reconstruction of carbonate formation temperatures unbiased by kinetics, dual clumped isotope analysis, therefore, allows tracing the isotopic heterogeneity of oxygen pools contributing to carbonate formation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)235-256
Number of pages22
JournalGeochimica et Cosmochimica Acta
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2021


  • Biomineralization
  • Carbonates
  • Dual clumped isotope thermometry
  • Kinetics
  • Paleothermometry
  • Δ and Δ

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geochemistry and Petrology

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