Article

Bulletin of Volcanology

, Volume 52, Issue 8, pp 584-601

High-precision 40Ar/39Ar sanidine geochronology of ignimbrites in the Mogollon-Datil volcanic field, southwestern New Mexico

  • William C McIntoshAffiliated withN. M. Bureau of Mines and Mineral Resources, N. M. Institute of Mining and Technology
  • , John F SutterAffiliated withU. S. Geological Survey
  • , Charles E ChapinAffiliated withN. M. Bureau of Mines and Mineral Resources, N. M. Institute of Mining and Technology
  • , Laura L KedzieAffiliated withN. M. Bureau of Mines and Mineral Resources, N. M. Institute of Mining and Technology

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Abstract

40Ar/39Ar age spectra have been obtained from 85 sanidine separates from 36 ignimbrites and one rhyolitic lava in the latest Eocene-Oligocene Mogollon-Datil volcanic field of southwestern New Mexico. Of the 97 measured age spectra, 94 yield weighted-mean plateau ages each giving single-spectrum 1σ precision of±0.25%–0.4% (±0.07–0.14 Ma). Replicate plateau age determinations for eight different samples show within-sample 1σ precisions averaging ±0.25%. Plateau ages from multiple (n=3–8) samples of individual ignimbrites show 1σ within-unit precision of ±0.1%–0.4% (±0.04–0.13 Ma). This within-unit precision represents a several-fold improvement over published K-Ar data for the same ignimbrites, and is similar to the range of precisions reported from single-crystal laser fusion studies. A further indication of the high precision of unit-mean 40Ar/30Ar ages is their close agreement with independently established stratigraphic order. Two samples failed to meet plateau criteria, apparently due to geologic contamination by older feldspars. Effects of minor contamination are shown by six other samples, which yielded slightly anomalous plateau ages. 40Ar/39Ar plateau ages permit resolution of units differing in age by 0.5% (0.15 Ma) or less. This high resolution, combined with paleomagnetic studies, has helped to correlate ignimbrites among isolated ranges and has allowed development of an integrated timestratigraphic framework for the volcanic field. Mogollon-Datil ignimbrites range in age from 36.2 to 24.3 Ma. Ignimbrite activity was strongly episodic, being confined to four brief (<2.6 m.y.) eruptive episodes separated by 1–3 m.y. gaps. Ignimbrite activity generally tended to migrate from the southeast toward the north and west.