Hematite and mn oxide (U-Th)/He dates from the buckskin-Rawhide detachment system, Western Arizona: Gaining insights into hematite (U-Th)/He systematics

Nathan S. Evenson, Peter W. Reiners, Jon E. Spencer, David L. Shuster

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

41 Scopus citations


In this paper, we use several analytical methods in an effort to better understand the systematics of the (U-Th)/He chronometer in hematite and manganese oxides. 4He diffusion data from a polycrystalline hematite sample is consistent with diffusion from hematite crystals with a range of sizes similar to those directly observed in sample material. Combined with a compilation of hematite He diffusion data from previous studies, this supports the interpretation that in general crystal size is a primary control on He retentivity in hematite. 4He/3He diffusion data from a single fragment of a larger hematite crystal imply the presence of multiple diffusion domains smaller than the observed size of the crystal fragment, which may be related to cracks, inclusions, or other internal features, as well as higher concentrations of 4He in smaller domains. We use kinetic values determined in this and other studies and measurements of hematite crystal size in each dated sample to estimate approximate closure temperatures for each sample, most of which range from 140 to 240 °C. Relationships between minor element and parent nuclide concentrations and (U-Th)/He dates measured in aliquots of some analyzed hematite samples suggest that, in some cases, U and Th are concentrated in interstitial phases other than hematite. We identify two processes responsible for much of the dispersion in hematite dates from single samples. Removal of U- and Th-rich interstitial phases from analyzed material during sample preparation or analysis leaves behind unsupported 4He implanted in hematite crystals. This removal results in apparent (U-Th)/He dates artificially older than the time of hematite He closure. A smaller source of dispersion that is likely to still be significant in some samples can be attributed to the high He diffusivities of observed interstitial phases, which do not retain implanted He. (U-Th)/He dating of hematite from upper and lower-plate rocks in the Buckskin and Rawhide detachment fault system of western Arizona yields ages that coincide with the timing of rapid extension along the detachment fault. Comparisons of estimated hematite closure temperatures and hematite sample ages to data from other studies of the Buckskin-Rawhide detachment system lead us to conclude that hematite dates record rapid cooling that followed detachment zone mineralization. Mn oxide (U-Th)/He dates are interpreted as formation ages of minerals formed by hydrothermal fluids that circulated through upper-plate rocks after cessation of extension along the detachment fault. Overall, we find that (U-Th)/He dating of hematite and Mn oxide minerals are promising methods for obtaining temporal information about the formation and cooling of these common secondary phases.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1373-1435
Number of pages63
JournalAmerican Journal of Science
Issue number10
StatePublished - Dec 1 2014


  • (U-Th)/He dating
  • Buckskin-rawhide mountains
  • Detachment-related mineralization
  • He diffusion
  • Hematite
  • Manganese oxide

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Earth and Planetary Sciences


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