Elevation dependence of cosmogenic 36Cl production in Hawaiian lava flows

Darin Desilets, Marek Zreda

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


We measured an elevation profile of cosmogenic 36Cl in two well-preserved lava flows on Mauna Kea, Hawaii (19.8° N, 155.5° W) in order to directly constrain the elevation dependence of cosmogenic nuclide production rates. The flows are vertically-extensive hawaiites erupted at 40.1 ± 0.6 and 62.2 ± 1.0 ka from point-vents on the upper flanks of Mauna Kea. The average paleo cutoff rigidity (a measure of geomagnetic shielding of cosmic rays) for these flows is 11 GV and their paleo-elevation range is 2100-3700 m. Production of 36Cl is dominated by neutron reactions, with the high-energy 39K(n,x) and 40Ca(n,x) mechanisms accounting for nearly half of the 36Cl production and the low-energy reaction 35Cl(n,γ) responsible for the remaining half. Production by negative muons is small at the elevations of our samples, accounting for less than 2% of the total production in the lowest elevation samples. The elevation dependence of 36Cl production measured in these lava flows is described by an effective attenuation length of 138 ± 5 g cm- 2. This result is close to the value of 140 g cm- 2 determined from neutron monitor surveys of high-energy nucleon fluxes, but significantly below the value of 149 g cm- 2 determined from measurements of low-energy neutrons. The predicted atmospheric attenuation length for these lava flows, incorporating both high- and low-energy mechanisms, is 144 g cm- 2. The good agreement between the 36Cl elevation profile and cosmic-ray surveys validates the use of neutron flux measurements to scale 36Cl production rates when production by muons is negligible.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)277-287
Number of pages11
JournalEarth and Planetary Science Letters
Issue number3-4
StatePublished - Jun 30 2006


  • Mauna Kea
  • attenuation length
  • cosmic rays
  • cosmogenic nuclides
  • scaling factors

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geophysics
  • Geochemistry and Petrology
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Space and Planetary Science


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