Snow shielding factors for cosmogenic nuclide dating inferred from long-term neutron detector monitoring

Delunel, Romain; Bourlès, Didier L.; van der Beek, Peter A.; Schlunegger, Fritz; Leya, Ingo; Masarik, Jozef; Paquet, Emmanuel (2014). Snow shielding factors for cosmogenic nuclide dating inferred from long-term neutron detector monitoring. Quaternary geochronology, 24, pp. 16-26. Elsevier 10.1016/j.quageo.2014.07.003

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The depth-dependent attenuation of the secondary cosmic-ray particle flux due to snow cover and its effects on production rates of cosmogenic nuclides constitutes a potential source of uncertainty for studies conducted in regions characterized by frequent seasonal snow burial. Recent experimental and numerical modelling studies have yielded new constraints on the effect of hydrogen-rich media on the production rates of cosmogenic nuclides by low- and high-energy neutrons (<10(-3) MeV and >10(2) MeV, respectively). Here we present long-term neutron-detector monitoring data from a natural setting that we use to quantify the effect of snow cover on the attenuation of fast neutrons (0.1-10 MeV), which are responsible for the production of Ne-21 from Mg and Cl-36 from K. We use data measured between July 2001 and May 2008 at seven stations located throughout the Ecrins-Pelvoux massif (French Western Alps) and its surroundings, at elevations ranging from 200 to 2500 m a.s.l. From the cosmic-ray fluxes recorded during summer, when snow is absent, we infer an apparent attenuation length of 148 g cm(-2) in the atmosphere at a latitude of similar to 45 degrees N and for altitudes ranging from similar to 200 to 2500 m a.s.l. Using snow water-equivalent (SWE) values obtained through snow-coring campaigns that overlap in time the neutron monitoring for five stations, we show that fast neutrons are much more strongly attenuated in snow than predicted by a conventional mass-shielding formulation and the attenuation length estimated in the atmosphere. We suggest that such strong attenuation results from boundary effects at the atmosphere/snow interface induced by the high efficiency of water as a neutron moderator. Finally, we propose an empirical model that allows calculating snow-shielding correction factors as a function of SWE for studies using Ne-21 and Cl-36 analyses in Mg- and K-rich minerals, respectively. This empirical model is of interest for studies with a focus on cosmic-ray exposure dating, particularly if the target rocks are made up of mafic to ultramafic units where seasonal snow-cover is a common phenomenon.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


08 Faculty of Science > Institute of Geological Sciences
08 Faculty of Science > Physics Institute > Space Research and Planetary Sciences

UniBE Contributor:

Delunel, Romain, Schlunegger, Fritz, Leya, Ingo


500 Science > 550 Earth sciences & geology
500 Science > 520 Astronomy
600 Technology > 620 Engineering








Fritz Schlunegger

Date Deposited:

01 May 2015 15:35

Last Modified:

05 Dec 2022 14:46

Publisher DOI:





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