02 May 2022
02 May 2022
Status: a revised version of this preprint is currently under review for the journal GChron.

A revised alpha-ejection correction calculation for (U-Th)/He thermochronology dates of broken apatite crystals

John He1 and Peter W. Reiners2 John He and Peter W. Reiners
  • 1Department of Geoscience, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ, 85721, USA
  • 2Faculty of the Environment, University of Northern British Columbia, Prince George, BC V2N 4Z9, Canada

Abstract. Accurate corrections for the effects of alpha ejection (the loss of daughter He near grain or crystal surfaces due to long alpha-stopping distances) is central to (U-Th)/He thermochronometry. In the case of apatite (U-Th)/He dating, alpha-ejection correction is complicated by the fact that crystals are often broken perpendicular to the c-axis. In such cases the correction should account for the fact that only some parts of the crystal are affected by alpha-ejection. A common current practice to account for such broken crystals is to modify measured lengths of broken crystals missing one termination by a factor of 1.5, and those missing both terminations by a factor of 2. This alpha-ejection “correction correction” systematically overestimates the actual fraction of helium lost to alpha ejection, and thus overcorrects the measured date relative to that determined for an otherwise equivalent unbroken crystal. The alpha-ejection-affected surface-area-to-volume ratio of a fragmented crystal is equivalent to the surface-area-to-volume ratio of an unbroken crystal twice as long (for fragments with one termination), and equivalent to that of an unbroken crystal infinitely long (for fragments with no termination). We suggest it is appropriate to revise the fragmentation correction to multiply the length of crystals missing one c-axis termination by 2, and those missing both c-axis termination by some large number >~20, respectively. We examine the effect of this revised correction and demonstrate the accuracy of the new method using synthetic datasets. Taking into account alpha-ejection, rounding of the He concentration profile due to diffusive loss, and accumulation of radiation damage over a range of thermal histories, we show that the revised fragmentation alpha-ejection correction proposed here accurately approximates the corrected date of an unbroken crystal (“true” date) to within < 0.7 % on average (±4.2 %, 1σ), whereas the former method overcorrects dates to be ~3 % older than the “true” date, on average. For individual grains, the former method can result in older dates by a few percent in most cases, and by as much as 12 % for grains with aspect ratio of up to 1 : 1. The revised alpha-ejection correction proposed here is both more accurate and more precise than the previous correction, and does not introduce any significant systematic bias to the apparent dates from a sample.

John He and Peter W. Reiners

Status: final response (author comments only)

Comment types: AC – author | RC – referee | CC – community | EC – editor | CEC – chief editor | : Report abuse
  • RC1: 'Comment on gchron-2022-11', Richard A. Ketcham, 26 May 2022
    • AC2: 'Reply on RC1', John He, 05 Jul 2022
  • RC2: 'Comment on gchron-2022-11', Anonymous Referee #2, 04 Jun 2022
    • AC1: 'Reply on RC2', John He, 05 Jul 2022

John He and Peter W. Reiners

John He and Peter W. Reiners


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Short summary
Apatite helium thermochronology is a method used for dating the time at which a rock (and the apatite crystals contained within) cooled below a certain temperature, by measuring radioactive parent isotopes (uranium and thorium) and daughter isotopes (helium). This paper proposes a revision to a commonly used calculation that corrects raw data to account for instances when the analyzed apatite crystals are fragmented. It demonstrates the improved accuracy and precision of the proposed revision.