Radiocarbon Chronology/Growth Rates of Ooids from Great Salt Lake, Utah

  • Olivia Paradis University of Southern California
  • Frank Corsetti University of Southern California
  • Audra Bardsley University of Southern California
  • Douglas Hammond University of Southern California
  • William Berelson University of Southern California
  • Xiaomei Xu University of California, Irvine
  • Jennifer Walker University of California, Irvine
  • Aaron Celestian University of California, Irvine


Ooids (calcium carbonate coated grains) are common in carbonate environments throughout geologic time, but the mechanism by which they form remains unclear. In particular, the rate of ooid growth remains elusive in all but a few modern marine environments. In order to investigate the rate of ooid growth in a non-marine setting, we used 14C to date ooids from Great Salt Lake, Utah, a well-known site of aragonitic ooids. Bulk ooids obtained from the northern shore of Antelope Island and the northeast shore of Great Salt Lake near Spiral Jetty were sieved into different size fractions and produced mean ages ranging between 2728±15 and 4373±20 14C yr BP. Larger ooids were older than smaller ooids, implying that larger ooids grew in the environment for a longer duration, with the caveat that bulk age dating integrates the growth history of an ooid. To better resolve growth history, ooids from the coarse fraction were sequentially dissolved, and 14C ages were obtained for each dissolution step to create a time series of ooid growth. The results of the sequential dating indicate that the coarse Great Salt Lake ooid growth began between 5800-6600 ± 60 14C yr BP while their outer cortices are nearly modern. Sequentially dated ooids from the South Arm of Great Salt Lake at Antelope Island record a nearly linear growth history (~ 10-15 µm/kyr), whereas ooids from Spiral Jetty record somewhat faster growth between ~6000 and 4000 years ago (0.03 – 0.06 µm/yr) followed by a 10x slower growth history for the remainder of their lifespan (0.003 – 0.008 µm/yr). The lifespan of Great Salt Lake aragonitic ooids is two to six times longer than those from modern marine environments, and thus provides a unique end member for understanding the mechanisms behind ooid formation. The ooid age range indicates that geochemical parameters measured from bulk ooid dissolution integrates over ~6000 years and thus does not represent a geochemical snapshot in time, as some previous studies have suggested.

How to Cite
Paradis , O., Corsetti , F., Bardsley , A., Hammond , D., Berelson , W., Xu , X., Walker , J., and Celestian , A., 2024, Radiocarbon Chronology/Growth Rates of Ooids from Great Salt Lake, Utah: Geosites, v. 51, p. 1-21., doi: 10.31711/ugap.v51i.137.