New zircon (U-Th)/He and U/Pb eruption age for the Rockland tephra, western USA

Quaternary Science Reviews
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Abstract

Eruption ages of a number of prominent Quaternary volcanic deposits remain inaccurately and/or imprecisely constrained, despite their importance as regional stratigraphic markers in paleo-environment reconstruction and as evidence of climate-altering eruptions. Accurately dating volcanic deposits presents challenging analytical considerations, including poor radiogenic yield, scarcity of datable minerals, and contamination of crystal populations by magma, eruption, and transport processes. One prominent example is the Rockland tephra, which erupted from the Lassen Volcanic Center in the southern Cascade arc. Despite a range in published eruption ages from 0.40 to 0.63 Ma, the Rockland tephra is extensively used as a marker bed across the western United States. To more accurately and precisely constrain the age of the Rockland tephra-producing eruption, we report U/Pb crystallization dates from the outermost ∼2 μm of zircon crystal faces (surfaces) using secondary ion mass spectrometry (SIMS). Our new weighted mean 238U/206Pb age for Rockland tephra zircon surfaces is 0.598 ± 0.013 Ma (2σ) and MSWD = 1.11 (mean square weighted deviation). As an independent test of the accuracy of this age, we obtained new (U-Th)/He dates from individual zircon grains from the Rockland tephra, which yielded a weighted mean age of 0.599 ± 0.012 Ma (2σ, MSWD = 5.13). We also obtained a (U-Th)/He age of 0.628 ± 0.014 Ma (MSWD = 1.19) for the Lava Creek Tuff member B, which was analyzed as a secondary standard to test the accuracy of the (U-Th)/He technique for Quaternary tephras, and to evaluate assumptions made in the model-age calculation. Concordance of new U/Pb and (U-Th)/He zircon ages reinforces the accuracy of our preferred Rockland tephra eruption age, and confirms that zircon surface dates sample zircon growth up to the time of eruption. We demonstrate the broad applicability of coupled U/Pb zircon-surface and single-grain zircon (U-Th)/He geochronology to accurate dating of Quaternary tephra, and highlight the challenges and opportunities of this technique.

Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title New zircon (U-Th)/He and U/Pb eruption age for the Rockland tephra, western USA
Series title Quaternary Science Reviews
DOI 10.1016/j.quascirev.2017.08.004
Volume 172
Year Published 2017
Language English
Publisher Elsevier
Contributing office(s) Volcano Science Center
Description 9 p.
First page 109
Last page 117
Country United States