Identification of Saharan dust particles in Pleistocene dune sand- paleosol sequences of Fuerteventura (Canary Islands)

New paper: 

Varga, Gy, Roettig, C.-B. (2018). Identification of Saharan dust particles in Pleistocene dune sand-paleosol sequences of Fuerteventura (Canary Islands). Hungarian Geographical Bulletin 67 (2), pp. 121-141.


Keywords: Saharan dust, Canary Islands, grain size, grain shape, automated image analysis


Automated static image analysis and newly introduced evaluation techniques were applied in this paper to identify Saharan dust material in the unique sand-paleosol sequence of Fuerteventura (Canary Islands). Measurements of ~50,000 individual mineral particles per samples provided huge amount of granulometric data on the investigated sedimentary units. In contrast to simple grain size and shape parameters of bulk samples, (1) parametric curve-fitting allowed the separation of different sedimentary populations suggesting the presence of more than one key depositional mechanisms. Additional (2) Raman-spectroscopy of manually targeted individual particles revealed a general relationship among grain size, grayscale intensity and mineralogy. This observation was used to introduce the (3) intensity based assessment technique for identification of large number of quartz particles. The (4) cluster and (5) network analyses showed that only joint analysis of size, shape and grayscale intensity properties provided suitable results, there is no specific granulometric parameter to distinguish Saharan dust due to their irregular shape characteristics. The presented methods allowed the separation of Saharan dust-related quartz grains from local sedimentary deposits, but due to the lack of robust granulometric characterization of coarsest fractions and due to the diverse geochemical properties of North African sources, exact volumetric amount of deposited dust material and sedimentation rates could not be determined from these data.

Granulometric characterization of paleosols in loess series by automated static image analysis

An automated image analysis method is proposed here to study the size and shape of siliciclastic sedimentary particles of paleosols of Central European loess sequences. 

New paper: Varga et al. (2018) Sedimentary Geology 370, pp. 1-14. DOI: j.sedgeo.2018.04.001

Several direct and indirect measurement techniques are available for grain size measurements of sedimentary mineral particles. Indirect techniques involve the use of some kind of physical laws, however, all requirements for calculations are in many cases not known. Even so, the direct manual microscopic observation and measurement of large, representative number of grains is time-consuming and sometimes rather subjective. Therefore, automated image analyses techniques provide a new and perspective way to analyse grain size and shape sedimentary particles. 
Here we test these indirect and direct techniques and provide new granulometric data of paleosols. Our results demonstrate that grain size data of the mineral dust samples are strongly dependent on shape parameters of particles, and shape heterogeneity was different of the different size classes. Due to the irregular grain shape parameters, uncertainties have arisen also for the sizes. 
In this paper we present a possible correction procedure to reduce the differences among the results of the laser diffraction and image analysis methods. By applying new correction factors, results of the two approaches could be get closer but the most definite factor, the unknown thickness of particles remained a problem to solve. The other presented method to assess the uncertain 3rd dimension of particles by their intensity-size relationships makes us able to reduce further the deviations of the two sizing methods.

Granulometry - 101

Interpretation of sedimentary (sub)populations extracted from grain size distributions of Central European loess-paleosol series

Varga, Gy., Újvári, G., Kovács, J. (in press). Interpretation of sedimentary (sub)populations extracted from grain size distributions of Central European loess-paleosol series. Quaternary International

Grain size proxies of aeolian dust deposits have widely been applied in environmental and sedimentary studies. However, large body of research papers are not taking into consideration that a complex grain size distribution curve cannot be an indicator of a single one environmental factor (e.g. wind speed/strength, transportation distance, aridity).
The aim of the present paper is to discuss the main differences of frequently used statistical methods and to provide possible interpretations of the results by applying these various approaches on the high-resolution loess-paleosol profile of Dunaszekcső, South Hungary (Central Europe). Beside single statistical descriptors (mean, median, mode) of grain size and simple indices of size-fraction ratios (U-ratio, Grain Size Index), some more complex algorithms were also used in our paper. The applied parametric curve-fitting, end-member modelling and hierarchical cluster analysis techniques are using the whole spectrum of the measured grain size distributions and provide a more reliable and more representative results even in case of small scale variations.
According to our findings, approaches which provide direct linkage among simple statistical descriptors and single atmospheric or other environmental elements are rather oversimplified as properties aeolian dust deposits are influenced by the integrated effects of several concurrent processes. Differences of more complex decomposition methods arise from the different approach and scope. End-members are determined from the unmixing based on the covariance structure of the whole grain size data-series of the section, while the parametric curve-fitting is based on the one-by-one deconvolution of the grain size distribution curves. End-members of loess-paleosol samples are regarded as representation of the average dust grain size distribution of various temporal sediment clusters of seasonal or other short-term intervals, while (sub)populations by parametric curve-fitting are proposed to illustrate process-related elements of background and dust storm depositional components for each sample. Results of cluster analysis represent similar grouping conditions as end-member modelling with a reduced sedimentary and genetically meaning.

How to fit Weibull functions?

You can separated the different sedimentary sub-populations by using a simple MS Excel software with SOLVER. The difference between the measured and modelled values (sum of two/three Weibull distributions) has to be minimized.

Fuerteventura in widescreen

International Symposium on eolian Dynamics, Paleosols and environmental Change in Drylands
Field impressions in widescreen
15-16 March, 2017: Fuerteventura, Spain