Radioisotopic Tie Points of the Quaternary Geomagnetic Instability Time Scale (GITS): How Accurate and Precise?

Thursday, 18 December 2014: 4:30 PM
Bradley S Singer, University of Wisconsin Madison, Madison, WI, United States
Reversals and excursions of the geomagnetic field are recorded globally by sedimentary and volcanic rocks. These geodynamo instabilities provide a rich set of chronostratigraphic tie points for the Quaternary period that can provide tests of age models central to paleoclimate studies. Radioisotopic dating of volcanic rocks, mainly 40Ar/39Ar dating of lava flows, coupled with astronomically-dated deep sea sediments, reveals 10 polarity reversals and 27 field excursions during the Quaternary (Singer, 2014). A key question concerns the uncertainties associated with radioisotopic dates of those geodynamo instabilities that have been identified both in terrestrial volcanic rocks and in deep sea sediments. These particular features offer the highest confidence in linking 40Ar/39Ar dates to the global marine climate record. Geological issues aside, for rocks in which the build-up of 40Ar by decay of 40K may be overwhelmed by atmospheric 40Ar at the time of eruption, the uncertainty in 40Ar/39Ar dates derives from three sources: (1) analytical uncertainty associated with measurement of the isotopes; this is straightforward to estimate; (2) systematic uncertainties stemming from the age of standard minerals, such as the Fish Canyon sanidine, and in the 40K decay constant; and (3) systematic uncertainty introduced during analysis, mainly the size and reproducibility of procedural blanks. Whereas 1 and 2 control the precision of an age determination, 2 and 3 also control accuracy. In parallel with an astronomical calibration of 28.201 Ma for the Fish Canyon sanidine standard, awareness of the importance of procedural blanks, and a new generation multi-collector mass spectrometer capable of exceptionally low-blank and isobar-free analysis, are improving both accuracy and precision of 40Ar/39Ar dates. Results from lavas recording the Matuyama-Brunhes reversal, the Santa Rosa excursion, and the reversal at the top of the Cobb Mtn subchron demonstrate these advances. Current best ages for these instabilities are 777 ± 2, 932 ± 3, and 1189 ± 1 ka (±1σ), respectively. These ages, likely accurate and precise to better than ±0.3%, are identical to those determined from deep sea sediment cores for which high-resolution magnetostratigraphy and O isotope-based age models have been developed (Channell et al., 2010).