Research Article

Synchronizing Rock Clocks of Earth History

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Science  25 Apr 2008:
Vol. 320, Issue 5875, pp. 500-504
DOI: 10.1126/science.1154339

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Calibration of the geological time scale is achieved by independent radioisotopic and astronomical dating, but these techniques yield discrepancies of ∼1.0% or more, limiting our ability to reconstruct Earth history. To overcome this fundamental setback, we compared astronomical and 40Ar/39Ar ages of tephras in marine deposits in Morocco to calibrate the age of Fish Canyon sanidine, the most widely used standard in 40Ar/39Ar geochronology. This calibration results in a more precise older age of 28.201 ± 0.046 million years ago (Ma) and reduces the 40Ar/39Ar method's absolute uncertainty from ∼2.5 to 0.25%. In addition, this calibration provides tight constraints for the astronomical tuning of pre-Neogene successions, resulting in a mutually consistent age of ∼65.95 Ma for the Cretaceous/Tertiary boundary.

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