Scientific article
Open access

Zircon age spectra to quantify magma evolution

Published inGeosphere, vol. 19, no. 4, p. 1006-1031
Publication date2023-07-06
First online date2023-07-06

The past decades have seen tremendous advances in analytical capabilities regarding the sensitivity, spatial selectivity, and instrumental precision of U-Th-Pb zircon geochronology. Along with improved zircon pretreatment to mitigate the effects of Pb-loss, these advancements have resulted in the emergence of U-Th-Pb dating as the most widely used geochronometer. In parallel, it became increasingly obvious that modern analytical techniques can resolve zircon age dispersal beyond instrumental uncertainties and that this dispersion cannot be attributed to Pb-loss or inheritance. Hence, there is a pressing need to refine statistical procedures for displaying and interpreting dispersed age data from volcanic and plutonic rocks, where zircon ages were traditionally assigned to the quasi-instantaneous events of eruption and magma emplacement, respectively. The ability to resolve zircon age spectra, which often range over timescales of 103–106 years, also offers new opportunities to monitor magmatic processes, because zircon crystallization directly relates to the temperature and composition of its host melt. This relation is, at least for typical subalkaline melt compositions, well calibrated by multiple zircon saturation experiments, although absolute saturation temperatures derived from them can vary by tens of degrees. Moreover, zircon saturation thermometry is supported by the trace element and isotopic inventory of zircon, which records the thermochemical and compositional evolution of melts at high fidelity. Here, we first review the properties of true zircon age spectra that are defined by a statistically robust overdispersion relative to analytical uncertainties. Secondly, we evaluate existing models and present new models that aim to quantitatively translate the properties of zircon age spectra into parameters controlling the longevity and thermal evolution of crustal magma bodies such as magma recharge flux and duration. These developing approaches, which aspire to capture all processes that affect the formation and dispersal of zircon in dynamic crustal magma systems, have the potential to foster an improved understanding of magmatism with implications for volcanic hazard assessment, geothermal energy uses, and the origins of ore deposits.

Citation (ISO format)
SCHMITT, A.k. et al. Zircon age spectra to quantify magma evolution. In: Geosphere, 2023, vol. 19, n° 4, p. 1006–1031. doi: 10.1130/GES02563.1
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Article (Published version)
ISSN of the journal1553-040X

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