High-precision 40Ar/39Ar dating of pleistocene tuffs and temporal anchoring of the Matuyama-Brunhes boundary

Darren F. Mark, Paul R. Renne, Ross Dymock, Victoria C. Smith, Justin I. Simon, Leah E. Morgan, Richard A. Staff, Ben S. Ellis

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    High-precision 40Ar/39Ar ages for a series of proximal tuffs from the Toba super-volcano in Indonesia, and the Bishop Tuff and Lava Creek Tuff B in North America have been obtained. Core from Ocean Drilling Project Site 758 in the eastern equatorial Indian Ocean contains discrete tephra layers that we have geochemically correlated to the Young Toba Tuff (73.7 ± 0.3 ka), Middle Toba Tuff (502 ± 0.7 ka) and two eruptions (OTTA and OTTB) related to the Old Toba Tuff (792.4 ± 0.5 and 785.6 ± 0.7 ka, respectively) (40Ar/39Ar data reported as full external precision, 1 sigma). Within ODP 758 Termination IX is coincident with OTTB and hence this age tightly constrains the transition from Marine Isotope Stage 19–20 for the Indian Ocean. The core also preserves the location of the Australasian tektites, and the Matuyama-Brunhes boundary with Bayesian age-depth models used to determine the ages of these events, c. 784 ka and c. 786 ka, respectively. In North America, the Bishop Tuff (766.6 ± 0.4 ka) and Lava Creek Tuff B (627.0 ± 1.5 ka) have quantifiable stratigraphic relationships to the Matuyama-Brunhes boundary. Linear age-depth extrapolation, allowing for uncertainties associated with potential hiatuses in five different terrestrial sections, defines a geomagnetic reversal age of 789 ± 6 ka. Considering our data with respect to the previously published age data for the Matuyama-Brunhes boundary of Sagnotti et al. (2014), we suggest at the level of temporal resolution currently attainable using radioisotopic dating the last reversal of Earths geomagnetic field was isochronous. An overall Matuyama-Brunhes reversal age of 783.4 ± 0.6 ka is calculated, which allowing for inherent uncertainties in the astronomical dating approach, is indistinguishable from the LR04 stack age (780 ± 5 ka) for the geomagnetic boundary. Our high-precision age is 10 ± 2 ka older than the Matuyama-Brunhes boundary age of 773 ± 1 ka, as reported previously by Channell et al. (2010) for Atlantic Ocean records. As ODP 758 features in the LR04 marine stack, the high-precision 40Ar/39Ar ages determined here, as well as the Matuyama-Brunhes boundary age, can be used as temporally accurate and precise anchors for the Pleistocene time scale.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1-23
    Number of pages23
    JournalQuaternary Geochronology
    Early online date18 Jan 2017
    Publication statusPublished - Apr 2017


    • Matuyama-Brunhes
    • Geomagnetic
    • 40Ar/39Ar
    • Toba
    • Bishop tuff
    • Orbital tuning
    • Australasian tektite


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