(U-Th)/He chronology: Part 2. Considerations for evaluating, integrating, and interpreting conventional individual aliquot data

R. M. Flowers, R. A. Ketcham, E. Enkelmann, C. Gautheron, P. W. Reiners, J. R. Metcalf, M. Danišík, D. F. Stockli, R. W. Brown

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Scopus citations


The (U-Th)/He dating technique is an essential tool in Earth science research with diverse thermochronologic, geochronologic, and detrital applications. It is now used in a wide range of tectonic, structural, petrological, sedimentary, geomorphic, volcanological, and planetary studies. While in some circumstances the interpretation of (U-Th)/He data is relatively straightforward, in other cases it is less so. In some geologic contexts, individual analyses of the same mineral from a single sample are expected to yield dates that differ well beyond their analytical uncertainty owing to variable He diffusion kinetics. Although much potential exists to exploit this phenomenon to decipher more detailed thermal history information, distinguishing interpretable intra-sample data variation caused by kinetic differences between crystals from uninterpretable overdispersion caused by other factors can be challenging. Nor is it always simple to determine under what circumstances it is appropriate to integrate multiple individual analyses using a summary statistic such as a mean sample date or to decide on the best approach for incorporating data into the interpretive process of thermal history modeling. Here we offer some suggestions for evaluating data, attempt to summarize the current state of thinking on the statistical characterization of data sets, and describe the practical choices (e.g., model structure, path complexity, data input, weighting of different geologic and chronologic information) that must be made when setting up thermal history models. We emphasize that there are no hard and fast rules in any of these realms, which continue to be an important focus of improvement and community discussion, and no single interpretational and modeling philosophy should be forced on data sets. The guiding principle behind all suggestions made here is for transparency in reporting the steps and assumptions associated with evaluating, integrating, and interpreting data, which will promote the continued development of (UTh)/ He chronology.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)137-161
Number of pages25
JournalBulletin of the Geological Society of America
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - 2023

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geology


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