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A 100-kyr periodicity in the flux of extraterrestrial 3He to the sea floor


MOST of the helium-3 in oceanic sediments conies from interplanetary dust particles (IDPs), and can therefore be used to infer the accretion rate of dust to the Earth through time1–3. 3He records from slowly accumulating pelagic clays indicate that the accretion rate varies considerably over millions of years, probably owing to cometary and asteroidal break-up events3. Muller and MacDonald have proposed4 that periodic changes in this accretion rate due to a previously unrecognized 100-kyr periodicity in the Earth's orbital inclination might account for the prominence of this frequency in climate records of the past million years5. Here we report variations in the 3He flux to the sea floor that support this idea. We find that the flux recorded in rapidly accumulating Quaternary sediments from the Mid-Atlantic Ridge oscillates with a period of about 100 kyr. We cannot yet say, however, whether the 100-kyr climate cycle is a consequence of, a cause of, or an effect independent of these periodic changes in the rate of delivery of interplanetary dust to the sea floor.

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Parley, K., Patterson, D. A 100-kyr periodicity in the flux of extraterrestrial 3He to the sea floor . Nature 378, 600–603 (1995).

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