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New 40Ar/39Ar age of the Bishop Tuff from multiple sites and sediment rate calibration for the Matuyama-Brunhes boundary

January 1, 2000

Precise dating of sanidine from proximal ash flow Bishop Tuff and air fall Bishop pumice and ash, California, can be used to derive an absolute age of the Matuyama Reversed-Brunhes Normal (M-B) paleomagnetic transition, identified stratigraphically close beneath the Bishop Tuff and ash at many sites in the western United States. An average age of 758.9±1.8 ka, standard error of the mean (SEM), was obtained for individual sanidine crystals or groups of several crystals, determined from ∼70 individual analyses of sanidine separates from 11 sample groups obtained at five localities. The basal air fall pumice (757.7±1.8 ka) and overlying ash flow tuff (762.2±4.7 ka) from near the source yield essentially the same dates within errors of analysis, suggesting that the two units were emplaced close in time. A date on distal Bishop air fall ash bed at Priant, California, ∼100 km to the west of the source area, is younger, 750.1±4.3 ka, but not significantly different within analytical error (±1 standard deviation). Previous dates of the Bishop Tuff, obtained by others using conventional K-Ar and the fission track method on zircons, ranged from ∼650 ka to ∼1.0 Ma. The most recent, generally accepted date by the K-Ar method on sanidine was 738±3 ka. We infer, as others before, that many K-Ar dates on sanidine feldspar are too young owing to incomplete degassing of radiogenic Ar during fusion in the K-Ar technique and that many older K-Ar dates are too old owing to detrital or xenocrystic contamination in the larger samples that are necessary for the technique. The new dates are similar to recent 40Ar/39Ar ages of the Bishop Tuff determined on individual samples by others but are derived from a larger proximal sample population and from multiple analysis of each sample. The results provide a definitive and precise age calibration of this widespread chronostratigraphic marker in the western United States and northeastern Pacific Ocean. We calculated the age of the M-B transition at five sites, assuming constant sedimentation rates, the age of the Bishop ash bed and one or more well-dated chronostratigraphic horizons above and below the Bishop Tuff ash bed and M-B transition, and stratigraphic separations between these datum levels. The age of the M-B transition is 774.2±2.8 ka, based on the average of eight such calculations, close to other recent determinations, and similar to that determined from the astronomically tuned polarity timescale. Our approach provides an alternative and surprisingly precise method for determining the age of the M-B and other chronostratigraphic levels. The above dates, calculated using U.S. Geological Survey values of 27.92 Ma for the Taylor Creek (TC) sanidine can be recalculated to other widely used values for these monitors. For example, using recently published values of 28.34 Ma (TC) and 523.1 Ma (McLure Mountain hornblende, MMhb-1), the resulting ages are ∼774 ka for the Bishop Tuff and ash bed and ∼789 ka for the M-B transition.

Publication Year 2000
Title New 40Ar/39Ar age of the Bishop Tuff from multiple sites and sediment rate calibration for the Matuyama-Brunhes boundary
DOI 10.1029/2000JB900901
Authors A.M. Sarna-Wojcicki, M. S. Pringle, J. Wijbrans
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Journal of Geophysical Research B: Solid Earth
Index ID 70022455
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse