Uranium/lead dating provides most accurate date yet for Earth's largest extinction
The U/Pb isotopic dating technique has been critical in dating now can analyze samples we previously could not get an accurate date for," Mundil said. The problem with using microscopic zircons, which are prevalent in. Mathematics · Medicine · Photosciences · Physics · Social Sciences · Statistics Give examples of other isotopes used in radioactive dating. Appreciate the half- life of Understand how decay and half life work to enable radiometric dating. Play a There are two types of half-life problems we will perform. Most common systems for dating geological samples Potassium-Argon dating is . Typical example of problems that may be encountered with a sample.
On impact in the cups, the ions set up a very weak current that can be measured to determine the rate of impacts and the relative concentrations of different atoms in the beams. Uranium—lead dating method[ edit ] Main article: Uranium—lead dating A concordia diagram as used in uranium—lead datingwith data from the Pfunze BeltZimbabwe.
This scheme has been refined to the point that the error margin in dates of rocks can be as low as less than two million years in two-and-a-half billion years. Zircon has a very high closure temperature, is resistant to mechanical weathering and is very chemically inert.
Zircon also forms multiple crystal layers during metamorphic events, which each may record an isotopic age of the event.
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This can be seen in the concordia diagram, where the samples plot along an errorchron straight line which intersects the concordia curve at the age of the sample. Samarium—neodymium dating method[ edit ] Main article: Samarium—neodymium dating This involves the alpha decay of Sm to Nd with a half-life of 1. Accuracy levels of within twenty million years in ages of two-and-a-half billion years are achievable.
Potassium—argon dating This involves electron capture or positron decay of potassium to argon Potassium has a half-life of 1. Rubidium—strontium dating method[ edit ] Main article: Rubidium—strontium dating This is based on the beta decay of rubidium to strontiumwith a half-life of 50 billion years.
This scheme is used to date old igneous and metamorphic rocksand has also been used to date lunar samples. Closure temperatures are so high that they are not a concern. Rubidium-strontium dating is not as precise as the uranium-lead method, with errors of 30 to 50 million years for a 3-billion-year-old sample.
Uranium—thorium dating method[ edit ] Main article: Uranium—thorium dating A relatively short-range dating technique is based on the decay of uranium into thorium, a substance with a half-life of about 80, years.
It is accompanied by a sister process, in which uranium decays into protactinium, which has a half-life of 32, years. While uranium is water-soluble, thorium and protactinium are not, and so they are selectively precipitated into ocean-floor sedimentsfrom which their ratios are measured.
The scheme has a range of several hundred thousand years. A related method is ionium—thorium datingwhich measures the ratio of ionium thorium to thorium in ocean sediment.
Radiocarbon dating method[ edit ] Main article: Carbon is a radioactive isotope of carbon, with a half-life of 5, years,   which is very short compared with the above isotopes and decays into nitrogen. Carbon, though, is continuously created through collisions of neutrons generated by cosmic rays with nitrogen in the upper atmosphere and thus remains at a near-constant level on Earth.
The carbon ends up as a trace component in atmospheric carbon dioxide CO2. A carbon-based life form acquires carbon during its lifetime. Plants acquire it through photosynthesisand animals acquire it from consumption of plants and other animals.
When an organism dies, it ceases to take in new carbon, and the existing isotope decays with a characteristic half-life years. The proportion of carbon left when the remains of the organism are examined provides an indication of the time elapsed since its death. This makes carbon an ideal dating method to date the age of bones or the remains of an organism.
The carbon dating limit lies around 58, to 62, years. However, local eruptions of volcanoes or other events that give off large amounts of carbon dioxide can reduce local concentrations of carbon and give inaccurate dates.
The releases of carbon dioxide into the biosphere as a consequence of industrialization have also depressed the proportion of carbon by a few percent; conversely, the amount of carbon was increased by above-ground nuclear bomb tests that were conducted into the early s. Also, an increase in the solar wind or the Earth's magnetic field above the current value would depress the amount of carbon created in the atmosphere.
For example growth rings in trees, if counted carefully, are a reliable way to determine the age of a tree.
Historical Geology/U-Pb, Pb-Pb, and fission track dating
Each growth ring only collects carbon from the air and nutrients during the year it is made. To calibrate carbon, one can analyze carbon from the center several rings of a tree, and then count the rings inward from the living portion to determine the actual age.
This has been done for the "Methuselah of trees", the bristlecone pine trees, which grow very slowly and live up to 6, years. Scientists have extended this calibration even further. These trees grow in a very dry region near the California-Nevada border. Dead trees in this dry climate take many thousands of years to decay.
Growth ring patterns based on wet and dry years can be correlated between living and long dead trees, extending the continuous ring count back to 11, years ago. An effort is presently underway to bridge the gaps so as to have a reliable, continuous record significantly farther back in time. The study of tree rings and the ages they give is called "dendrochronology".
Tree rings do not provide continuous chronologies beyond 11, years ago because a rather abrupt change in climate took place at that time, which was the end of the last ice age. During the ice age, long-lived trees grew in different areas than they do now. There are many indicators, some to be mentioned below, that show exactly how the climate changed at the end of the last ice age.
It is difficult to find continuous tree ring records through this period of rapid climate change. Dendrochronology will probably eventually find reliable tree records that bridge this time period, but in the meantime, the carbon ages have been calibrated farther back in time by other means. Calibration of carbon back to almost 50, years ago has been done in several ways.
Radiometric dating - Wikipedia
One way is to find yearly layers that are produced over longer periods of time than tree rings. In some lakes or bays where underwater sedimentation occurs at a relatively rapid rate, the sediments have seasonal patterns, so each year produces a distinct layer. Such sediment layers are called "varves", and are described in more detail below.
Varve layers can be counted just like tree rings. If layers contain dead plant material, they can be used to calibrate the carbon ages. Another way to calibrate carbon farther back in time is to find recently-formed carbonate deposits and cross-calibrate the carbon in them with another short-lived radioactive isotope.
Where do we find recently-formed carbonate deposits? If you have ever taken a tour of a cave and seen water dripping from stalactites on the ceiling to stalagmites on the floor of the cave, you have seen carbonate deposits being formed. Since most cave formations have formed relatively recently, formations such as stalactites and stalagmites have been quite useful in cross-calibrating the carbon record.
If one predicts a carbon age assuming that the ratio of carbon to carbon in the air has stayed constant, there is a slight error because this ratio has changed slightly. Figure 9 shows that the carbon fraction in the air has decreased over the last 40, years by about a factor of two.
This is attributed to a strengthening of the Earth's magnetic field during this time. A stronger magnetic field shields the upper atmosphere better from charged cosmic rays, resulting in less carbon production now than in the past. Changes in the Earth's magnetic field are well documented. Complete reversals of the north and south magnetic poles have occurred many times over geologic history. A small amount of data beyond 40, years not shown in Fig. What change does this have on uncalibrated carbon ages?
The bottom panel of Figure 9 shows the amount Figure 9. Ratio of atmospheric carbon to carbon, relative to the present-day value top panel.
The bottom panel shows the offset in uncalibrated ages caused by this change in atmospheric composition.
Uranium–lead dating - Wikipedia
Tree-ring data are from Stuiver et al. The offset is generally less than years over the last 10, years, but grows to about 6, years at 40, years before present. Uncalibrated radiocarbon ages underestimate the actual ages. Note that a factor of two difference in the atmospheric carbon ratio, as shown in the top panel of Figure 9, does not translate to a factor of two offset in the age.
Rather, the offset is equal to one half-life, or 5, years for carbon The initial portion of the calibration curve in Figure 9 has been widely available and well accepted for some time, so reported radiocarbon dates for ages up to 11, years generally give the calibrated ages unless otherwise stated. The calibration curve over the portions extending to 40, years is relatively recent, but should become widely adopted as well.
These methods may work on young samples, for example, if there is a relatively high concentration of the parent isotope in the sample. In that case, sufficient daughter isotope amounts are produced in a relatively short time. As an example, an article in Science magazine vol.
There are other ways to date some geologically young samples. Besides the cosmogenic radionuclides discussed above, there is one other class of short-lived radionuclides on Earth.
These are ones produced by decay of the long-lived radionuclides given in the upper part of Table 1. As mentioned in the Uranium-Lead section, uranium does not decay immediately to a stable isotope, but decays through a number of shorter-lived radioisotopes until it ends up as lead. While the uranium-lead system can measure intervals in the millions of years generally without problems from the intermediate isotopes, those intermediate isotopes with the longest half-lives span long enough time intervals for dating events less than several hundred thousand years ago.
Note that these intervals are well under a tenth of a percent of the half-lives of the long-lived parent uranium and thorium isotopes discussed earlier. Two of the most frequently-used of these "uranium-series" systems are uranium and thorium These are listed as the last two entries in Table 1, and are illustrated in Figure A schematic representation of the uranium decay chain, showing the longest-lived nuclides. Half-lives are given in each box. Solid arrows represent direct decay, while dashed arrows indicate that there are one or more intermediate decays, with the longest intervening half-life given below the arrow.
Like carbon, the shorter-lived uranium-series isotopes are constantly being replenished, in this case, by decaying uranium supplied to the Earth during its original creation. Following the example of carbon, you may guess that one way to use these isotopes for dating is to remove them from their source of replenishment. This starts the dating clock. In carbon this happens when a living thing like a tree dies and no longer takes in carbonladen CO2. For the shorter-lived uranium-series radionuclides, there needs to be a physical removal from uranium.
The chemistry of uranium and thorium are such that they are in fact easily removed from each other. Uranium tends to stay dissolved in water, but thorium is insoluble in water. So a number of applications of the thorium method are based on this chemical partition between uranium and thorium. Sediments at the bottom of the ocean have very little uranium relative to the thorium.
Because of this, the uranium, and its contribution to the thorium abundance, can in many cases be ignored in sediments. Thorium then behaves similarly to the long-lived parent isotopes we discussed earlier. Samples tested during and after this period must be checked against another method of dating isotopic or tree rings.
To calculate the age of a substance using isotopic dating, use the equation below: Ra has a half-life of years. Radioactive Dating Using Nuclides Other than Carbon Radioactive dating can also use other radioactive nuclides with longer half-lives to date older events. For example, uranium which decays in a series of steps into lead can be used for establishing the age of rocks and the approximate age of the oldest rocks on earth.
Since U has a half-life of 4. In a sample of rock that does not contain appreciable amounts of Pb, the most abundant isotope of lead, we can assume that lead was not present when the rock was formed. Therefore, by measuring and analyzing the ratio of U Pb, we can determine the age of the rock. This assumes that all of the lead present came from the decay of uranium If there is additional lead present, which is indicated by the presence of other lead isotopes in the sample, it is necessary to make an adjustment.
Potassium-argon dating uses a similar method. K decays by positron emission and electron capture to form Ar with a half-life of 1. If a rock sample is crushed and the amount of Ar gas that escapes is measured, determination of the Ar K ratio yields the age of the rock. Other methods, such as rubidium-strontium dating Rb decays into Sr with a half-life of As ofthe oldest known rocks on earth are the Jack Hills zircons from Australia, found by uranium-lead dating to be almost 4.
An ingenious application of half-life studies established a new science of determining ages of materials by half-life calculations.