Encyclopedia of Scientific Dating Methods

Living Edition
| Editors: W. Jack Rink, Jeroen Thompson

Thermochronology, Detrital Zircon

  • J. I. Garver
Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-94-007-6326-5_224-1


Detrital zircon thermochronology is the study of thermal histories of rocks revealed through cooling ages obtained from detrital zircon. Most studies focus on fission-track or helium dating of suites of single grains to reveal the thermal evolution of a source region.


Detrital zircon thermochronology is focused on the evaluation of ages of detrital zircon grains to reconstruct the thermal evolution of source rocks that supplied sediment to a basin. Zircon (ZrSiO4) is an accessory mineral that crystallizes primarily in silica-rich igneous rocks, but after erosion and deposition it occurs widely in sedimentary rocks and their metamorphic equivalents (Bernet and Garver 2005). Because zircon is very durable in typical sedimentary environments on Earth, it typically survives sedimentary transport and in fact can be concentrated in heavy mineral assemblages where mineralogical fractionation occurs naturally by sedimentary processes. Zircon is also resistant to...


Source Rock Orogenic Belt Detrital Zircon Fission Track Single Zircon 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.
This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.


  1. Bernet, M., 2009. A field-based estimate of the zircon fission-track closure temperature. Chemical Geology, 259, 181–189.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Bernet, M., and Garver, J. I., 2005. Fission-track analysis of detrital zircon. In Reiners, P., and Ehlers, T. (eds.), Low-temperature Thermochronology. Reviews in Mineralogy and Geochemistry Series, Vol. 58. Mineralogical Society of America, Chantilly, VA (USA), pp. 205–238.Google Scholar
  3. Bernet, M., Zattin, M., Garver, J. I., Brandon, M. T., and Vance, J. A., 2001. Steady-state exhumation of the European Alps. Geology, 29, 35–38.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bernet, M., Brandon, M. T., Garver, J. I., and Molitor, B., 2004. Fundamentals of detrital zircon fission-track analysis for provenance and exhumation studies. In Bernet, M., and Spiegel, C., (eds.), Detrital Thermochronology – Provenance Analysis, Exhumation and Landscape Evolution of Mountain Belts. Geological Society of America Special Publication, Boulder Colorado (USA), 378, pp. 25–36.Google Scholar
  5. Brandon, M. T., and Vance, J. A., 1992. Tectonic evolution of the Cenozoic Olympic subduction complex, Washington State, as deduced from fission track ages for detrital zircons. American Journal of Science, 292, 565–636.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Carlson, B. M., 2012. Cooling and provenance revealed through detrital zircon fission track dating of the Upper Cretaceous Valdez Group and Paleogene Orca Group in Western Prince William Sound, Alaska. In Proceedings from the Twenty-Fifth Annual Keck Research Symposium in Geology, April 5–8, 2012, Amherst MA, pp. 8–16.Google Scholar
  7. Carter, A., and Bristow, C. S., 2000. Detrital zircon geochronology: enhancing the quality of sedimentary source information through improved methodology and combined U-Pb and fission-track techniques. Basin Research, 12, 47–57.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Enkelmann, E., Zeitler, P. K., Pavlis, T. L., Garver, J. I., and Ridgway, K. D., 2009. Intense localized rock uplift and erosion in the St. Elias Orogen of Alaska. Nature Geoscience, 2(5), 360–363.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Garver, J. I., and Brandon, M. T., 1994. Erosional denudation of the British Columbia Coast Ranges as determined from fission-track ages of detrital zircon from the Tofino Basin, Olympic Peninsula, Washington. Geological Society of America Bulletin, 106(11), 1398–1412.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Garver, J. I., and Kamp, P. J. J., 2002. Integration of zircon color and zircon fission track zonation patterns in Orogenic belts: application of the Southern Alps, New Zealand. Tectonophysics, 349(1–4), 203–219.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Garver, J. I., Brandon, M. T., Roden-Tice, M., and Kamp, P. J. J., 1999. Erosional denudation determined by fission-track ages of detrital apatite and zircon. In Ring, U., Brandon, M. T., Willett, S., and Lister, G. (eds.), Exhumation Processes: Normal Faulting, Ductile Flow, and Erosion. Geological Society of London Special Publication, Burlington House, Piccadilly, London (UK), 154. pp. 283–304.Google Scholar
  12. Garver, J. I., Soloviev, A. V., Bullen, M. E., and Brandon, M. T., 2000. Towards a more complete record of magmatism and exhumation in continental arcs using detrital fission track thermochronometry. Physics and Chemistry of the Earth, Part A, 25, 565–570.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Garver, J. I., Reiners, P. R., Walker, L. J., Ramage, J. M., and Perry, S. E., 2005. Implications for timing of Andean uplift based on thermal resetting of radiation-damaged zircon in the Cordillera Huayhuash, northern Perú. Journal of Geology, 113, 117–138.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Hancher, J. M., and Hoskin, P. W. O., 2003. Zircon. Mineralogical Society of America. Reviews in Mineralogy and Geochemistry, 53, 500.Google Scholar
  15. Montario, M. J., and Garver, J. I., 2009. The thermal evolution of the Grenville Terrane revealed through U-Pb and Fission-Track analysis of detrital Zircon from Cambro-Ordovician quartz arenites of the Potsdam and Galway Formations. Journal of Geology, 117, 595–614.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Poldervaart, A., 1955. Zircons in rocks, 1. Sedimentary rocks. American Journal of Science, 253, 433–461.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Rahl, J. M., Reiners, P. W., Campbell, I. H., Nicolescu, S., and Allen, C. M., 2003. Combined single-grain (U-Th)/He and U/Pb dating of detrital zircons from the Navajo Sandstone, Utah. Geology, 31, 761–764.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Reiners, P. W., 2005. Zircon (U-Th)/He thermochronometry. In Reiners, P. W., and Ehlers, T. A. (eds.), Thermochronology. Reviews in Mineralogy and Geochemistry, Vol. 58, Mineralogical Society of America, Chantilly, VA (USA), pp. 151–176.Google Scholar
  19. Reiners, P. W., and Brandon, M. T., 2006. Using thermochronology to understand orogenic erosion. Annual Reviews of Earth and Planetary Science, 34, 419–466.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Reiners, P. W., Campbell, I. S., Nicolescu, S., Allen, C. A., Hourigan, J. K., Garver, J. I., Mattinson, J. M., and Cowan, D. S., 2005. (U-Th)/(He-Pb) “Double-dating” of detrital zircons. American Journal of Science, 305, 259–311.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Rubatto, D., 2002. Zircon trace element geochemistry: partitioning with garnet and the link between U-Pb ages and metamorphism. Chemical Geology, 184, 123–138.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Ruiz, G. M. H., Seward, D., and Winkler, W., 2004. Detrital thermochronology – a new perspective on hinterland tectonics, an example from the Andean Amazon Basin, Ecuador. Basin Research, 16, 413–430.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Spiegel, C., Siebel, W., Kuhlemann, J., and Frisch, W., 2004. Towards a comprehensive provenance analysis: a multi-method approach and its implications for the evolution of the Central Alps. In Bernet, M., and Spiegel, C. (eds.), Detrital Thermochronology – Provenance Analysis, Exhumation, and Landscape Evolution of Mountain Belts. Geological Society of America Special Publication, Boulder Colorado (USA), 378, pp. 37–50.Google Scholar
  24. Tagami, T., 2005. Zircon fission-track dating. In Reiners, P. W., and Ehlers, T. (eds.), Low-Temperature Thermochronometry. Reviews of Mineralogy and Geochemistry, Vol. 58, Mineralogical Society of America, Chantilly, VA (USA), pp. 95–122.Google Scholar
  25. Wagner, G., and Van den Haute, P., 1992. Fission track dating. Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Whitchurch, A. L., Carter, A., Sinclair, H. D., Duller, R. A., Whittaker, A. C., and Allen, P. A., 2011. Sediment routing system evolution within a diachronously uplifting orogen: insights from detrital zircon thermochronological analyses from the South-Central Pyrenees. American Journal of Science, 311(5), 442–482.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of GeologyUnion CollegeSchenectadyUSA