Paleoclimatic investigations using carbonate speleothems in South Korea
A cave is defined as a naturally formed underground cavity large enough for human entry. According to the formation processes, caves are usually divided into solution, volcanic, glacier, crevice, and erosion caves, etc. Among solution types, limestone caves commonly include various types of carbonate speleothems. The speleothems in limestone caves are mostly composed of carbonate minerals with calcite, aragonite, or a combination of two. Significant scientific contributions have been made for paleoclimatic research past a few decades using speleothems in cave because caves retain stable environment inside and do reflect the paleoclimatic variations regionally as well as globally. For this purpose, scientists have tried to date speleothems (formations in caves) more accurately and to trace environmental changes around the caves from geochemical data (stable isotopes of oxygen and carbon, trace elements, etc.) of speleothems, in particular stalagmites. At least 1,000 limestone caves are estimated to be extensively developed in South Korea. A variety of different speleothems are actively growing in these caves today. Coordinated textural, isotopic and elemental data of some speleothems in Korean limestone caves promise a great potential for the reconstruction of climate and environmental changes in East Asian monsoon system during the geologic past. Also, it is emphasized here that textural and monitoring data must be investigated in detail prior to the paleoclimatic discussion because those data are most likely to prevent misinterpretation of isotopic and geochemical data from speleothems.