Vestiges of the Ancient: Deep-Time Noble Gas Thermochronology

Ancient rocks have survived plate tectonic recycling for billions of years, but key questions remain about how and when they were exhumed to the surface. Constraining exhumation histories over long timescales is a challenge because much of the rock record has been lost to erosion. Argon and helium noble gas thermochronology can reconstruct deep-time <350 °C thermal histories by using the distinct temperature sensitivities of minerals such as feldspar, zircon, and apatite, while exploiting grain size and radiation damage effects on diffusion kinetics. Resolution of unique time–temperature paths over long timescales requires multiple chronometers, appropriate kinetic models, and inverse simulation techniques to fully explore and constrain possible solutions. Results suggest that surface histories of ancient continental interiors are far from uninteresting and may merely be misunderstood.

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