Letter | Published:

Effect of climate on the magnetic susceptibility of soils

Naturevolume 256pages565566 (1975) | Download Citation



THE magnetic susceptibility of soils derived from sedimentary rocks is normally significantly higher than that of the parent rock. Le Borgne1,2 has suggested that this enhanced susceptibility of the soil is due to the in situ conversion of the iron oxides from an antiferromagnetic form such as haematite (α Fe2O3) or goethite (α FeOOH) to the ferrimagnetic form, maghaemite (γ Fe2O3). He also proposed two possible mechanisms involving a reduction process followed by reoxidation to maghaemite. In the first (fermentation mechanism), the reduction occurs as a result of the decay of organic matter in the soil in anaerobic conditions achieved during wet periods, and reoxidation to maghaemite occurs in the aerobic conditions prevailing during subsequent dry periods. In the second (heating mechanism) the burning of organic material produces the temperature increase and reducing atmosphere necessary for the reduction to magnetite (Fe3O4) in a thin layer of soil underlying the fire and reoxidation occurs during the cooling down of the fires when air enters the system.

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  1. 1

    Le Borgne, E., Annls Geophys., 11, 399–419 (1955).

  2. 2

    Le Borgne, E., Annls Geophys., 16, 159–195 (1960).

  3. 3

    Tite, M. S., and Mullins, C., Archaeometry, 13, 209–219 (1971).

  4. 4

    Stacey, F. D., and Bannerjee, S. K., The Physical Principles of Rock Magnetism, 92–95 (Elsevier, Amsterdam, 1974).

  5. 5

    Scollar, I., J. scient. Instrum., 1, 781–782 (1968).

  6. 6

    Soil Map of Europe (1:2,500,000), (Food and Agricultural Organisation of the United Nations, Rome, 1966).

  7. 7

    Tite, M. S., Archaeometry, 14, 229–236 (1972).

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  1. Department of Physics, University of Essex, Wivenhoe Park, Colchester, CO4 3SQ, UK

    • M. S. TITE
  2. Fondazione Lerici Prospezioni Archeologiche, Rome, Italy



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