Mapping temporal and spatial patterns of zircon U-Pb disturbance: a Yilgarn Craton case study

C. L. Kirkland*, F. Abello, M. Danišík, N. J. Gardiner, C. Spencer

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


The zircon U-Pb system is a robust geochronometer, however disturbance to this system can be widely diagnosed on U-Pb concordia diagrams where it is typically interpreted as a consequence of radiogenic-Pb loss. In many cases, removal of radiogenic-Pb is not complete, and Discordia regressions on concordia diagrams may then potentially track both the original age of crystallization of the rock, and the timing of isotopic disturbance. However, U-Pb disturbance, resulting in normal discordance, can also be driven by U gain. In this contribution, we expand on a novel approach to determine the most pervasive time of U-Pb disturbance in a sample. We introduce the Concordant-Discordant Comparison (CDC) test which evaluates the similarity between a sample's concordant age structure and a modelled age structure, from discordant analyses, over a wide range of potential disturbance times. The closest similarity in concordant and discordant age populations as derived from a specified time of elemental mobility, is interpreted as the best estimate for the time of U-Pb disturbance. The CDC test is appropriate for magmatic as well as detrital samples, and yields dates that can be spatially interpolated to produce regional maps that define domains of U-Pb disturbance.

We highlight the application of the CDC test using a case study from the Eastern Goldfields Superterrane of the Yilgarn Craton, Western Australia. U-Pb SIMS analysis of 95 zircon samples from across the Eastern Goldfields Superterrane reveals two dominant times of U-Pb disturbance – recent and at ~ 600 Ma. The ~ 600 Ma time of U-Pb disturbance shows a statistically significant spatial relationship to a buried set of undated dykes (the Cosmo Newbery Dyke Suite), which are apparent in geophysical images. Thermal modelling indicates dyke temperatures alone are insufficient to cause widespread Pb loss in host rock zircon. We therefore suggest dyke emplacement caused U-Pb disturbance through reactive fluids leaching radiogenic-Pb. Additionally, we use the difference between the measured and calculated zircon Th/U ratio to distinguish between Pb loss and elemental gain processes, as the calculated Th/U ratio derived from 208Pb/206Pb will only match measured Th/U where no later addition or loss of Th or U has occurred. CDC modelling of discordant U-Pb zircon analyses may provide a means to recognise the distal footprint of otherwise difficult to date tectonothermal events and extract useful information from often discarded analyses.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)39-47
Number of pages9
JournalGondwana Research
Early online date31 Aug 2017
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2017


  • Discordant
  • Geochronology
  • Pb-loss
  • U-Pb
  • Zircon


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