A new method to measure lead isotopes in the ocean with an outstanding precision

A new method for the determination of seawater lead (Pb) isotope compositions and concentrations was developed, which combines and optimizes previously published protocols for the separation and isotopic analysis of this element. It involves 1 to 2 L of seawater, double spike, magnesium hydroxide coprecipitation, anion exchange chromatography and thermal ionization mass spectrometry. Ratios involving the minor 204Pb isotope are a factor of five more precise than previously published data, yielding uncertainties better than ±3‰. Results are presented on GEOTRACES intercalibration samples and a first depth profile from the eastern South Atlantic Ocean.

15 Paul l

Figure: Methodology to separate and analyse Pb isotopes and concentrations from seawater samples using a 207Pb-204Pb double spike and thermal ionisation mass spectrometry (TIMS). Click here to view the figure larger.



Paul, M., Bridgestock, L., Rehkämper, M., van DeFlierdt, T., & Weiss, D. (2015). High-precision measurements of seawater Pb isotope compositions by double spike thermal ionization mass spectrometry. Analytica Chimica Acta, 863, 59–69. doi:10.1016/j.aca.2014.12.012. Click here to access the paper.

Latest highlights

Science Highlights

Updated compilation of the global continental and marine lithogenic neodymium isotopic measurements

This new compilation and gridded datasets offer a concrete way forward to improve the application of Nd isotopes as a useful tracer of ocean circulation.


Science Highlights

Neodymium concentrations and isotopes help disentangling Siberian river influences on the Arctic Ocean

Paffrath and co-autors followed the relative contributions of the main Siberian rivers to the waters of the Transpolar Drift using neodymium parameters.

Science Highlights

A new and more quantitative atlas of the deep-sea burial fluxes of major and trace elements

Among other findings, authors find that the new opal flux is roughly a factor of 2 increase over previous estimates having important implications for the global silicon cycle.


Science Highlights

Manganese: a surprising co-limiting factor of phytoplankton growth in the Southern Ocean

One of the main consequences of this work is that manganese should be included in ocean-climate models, more particularly to improve the accuracy of their predictions in this area.