Understanding phengite argon closure using single grain fusion age distributions in the Cycladic Blueschist Unit on Syros, Greece

B.A. Uunk, F.M. Brouwer, M. ter Voorde, J.R. Wijbrans

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The preservation of 40Ar/ 39Ar ages of high pressure (HP) metamorphic white mica reflects an interplay of processes that mobilise 40Ar, either through mica recrystallisation or by diffusive 40Ar loss. The applicability of resulting ages for dating tectonic processes is critically dependent on whether either of these processes can be proven to be efficient and exclusively active in removing 40Ar from mica. If not, preservation of an inherited or mixed age signal in a sample must be considered for interpretation. The Cycladic Blueschist Unit on Syros has become a new focal area in the discussion of the geological significance of argon age results from multi-grain step heating experiments. While some argue that age results can directly be linked to deformation or metamorphic growth events, others interpret age results to reflect the interplay of protracted recrystallisation and partial resetting, preserving a mixed age signal. Here, we demonstrate the potential of a new approach of multiple single grain fusion dating. Using the distribution of ages at the sample, section and regional scale, we show that in Northern Syros mica ages display systematic trends that can be understood as the result of three competing processes: 1) crystallisation along the prograde to peak metamorphic path, 2) a southward trend of increasing 40Ar loss by diffusion and 3) localised and rock type dependent deformation or metamorphic reactions leading to an observed age spread typically limited to ∼10 Myr at the section scale. None of the sections yielded the anomalously old age results that would be diagnostic for significant excess 40Ar. The recorded trends in ages for each of the studied sections reflect a range of P–T conditions and duration of metamorphism. Diffusion modelling shows that in a typical subduction metamorphic loop, subtle variations in P–T–t history can explain that age contrasts occur on a regional scale but are limited on the outcrop scale. Our new approach provides a comprehensive inventory of the range of ages present in different rocks and at different scales, which results in a more refined understanding of argon retention and isotopic closure of phengite and the geological significance of the ages. We verify the added value of our new approach by comparison with multi-grain step heating experiments on selected samples from the same sections.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)192-203
Number of pages12
JournalEarth and Planetary Science Letters
Early online date27 Dec 2017
Publication statusPublished - 15 Feb 2018


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