Permian-Triassic Magmatism Along the Southern Gondwana Margin: Correlating Proximal and Distal Volcanic Deposits

Wednesday, 17 December 2014
Matthew P McKay1, Amy L Weislogel1 and Andrea Fildani2, (1)West Virginia University, Morgantown, WV, United States, (2)Statoil Gulf ASA, Houston, TX, United States
Active margins are dominated by erosion, structural deformation, tectonic dissection, and igneous intrusions. These destructive processes lead to an incomplete record of past magmatism in active margins. Volcanic airfall tuffs that are transported and deposited in distal sedimentary basins may be more likely to be preserved in the rock record. Tuffs, however, may be affected by atmospheric fractionation during transport, postdepositional weathering, and diagenesis during burial, potentially altering ash texture, mineralogy, and geochemistry. We use outcrop observations, stratigraphic relationships, whole rock geochemistry, U-Pb zircon geochronology, and zircon rare-earth element geochemistry from Permian-Triassic strata of South Africa and South America to correlate distal volcanic ashes to proximal volcanic deposits and plutonic suites within southern Gondwana. U-Pb zircon signals of the tuffs are treated as "detrital"; the distinct zircon signals were then used to correlate distal airfall ashes to potential magmatic sources. This suggests that airfall fractionation of zircon populations is not a significant concern in tuff geochronology. Additionally, zircon inheritance may be a useful tool in matching far-traveled ashes with parental magmatic suites. Although previous studies have shown that the geochemistry of volcanic tuff deposits varies with distance from the volcanic vent, we employ whole rock and zircon REE compositions to differentiate distinct magmatic periods using distal ashes that were deposited >750 km from the volcanic source.  The results of this study support a geochronologic interpretation that the Karoo strata of S. Africa are >10 Ma younger than previously thought based on biostratigraphy. Since the Karoo basin is heavily studied as a record of the end-Permian extinction and paleoclimate change, our results have major implication for this key time in Earth History.