Paleomagnetism and 40Ar/39Ar chronology of lavas from meseta del Lago Buenos Aires, Patagonia

Laurie L. Brown, Brad S. Singer, Matthew L. Gorring

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As part of a larger project investigating paleosecular variation in South America, 36 paleomagnetic and geochronology sites were sampled on Meseta del Lago Buenos Aires (47 ° S, 289° E), 200 km east of the active plate boundary in southern Patagonia. Basaltic lavas sampled range from late Miocene to late Pleistocene yet most of the individual lavas are younger than 3.3 Ma. Thirty-eight isochron ages determined via 40Ar/39Ar incremental-heating experiments frame a detailed stratigraphy. The isochron ages range from 66.9 ± 4.1 ka for scoria cones and a youthful lava flow in the Rio Pinturas valley to 10.12 ± 1.35 Ma for thick plateau-forming lavas exposed along the SE edge of the Meseta. The last 3.3 myr is characterized by seven episodes of volcanism at ca. 3.2-3.0 Ma, 2.4 Ma, 1.7 Ma, 1.35 Ma, 1.0 Ma, 750 ka, 430-330 ka, and <110 ka. The bulk of lavas forming the surface of the Meseta erupted in the last 1.7 my. All sites have stable magnetization, and after step demagnetization using either thermal or alternating field techniques, yield characteristic directions held by magnetite and/or titanomagnetite. Ten sites have distinct transitional directions (defined by pole latitudes <55°), and associated ages indicate possible connections to known reversals within the Matuyama Chron, including the onset of the Jaramillo subchron (1.016 ± 0.01 Ma), the Cobb Mountain subchron (1.25 ± 0.03 Ma), the Ontong-Java 1 event (1.37 ± 0.03 Ma), and the termination of the Olduvai subchron (1.72 ± 0.02 Ma). Remaining sites are divided into normal (14 sites) and reversed polarity (12 sites). At 95% confidence mean normal and reversed directions overlap. The mean direction for 26 sites is I =-63.0°, D = 3.4°, a95 = 5.4°, which is indistinguishable from the expected geocentric axial dipole. Paleosecular variation, measured by the dispersion of virtual geomagnetic poles about the rotation axis, is higher than expected at 20.0°. Model G, using data for the past 5 Myr, predicts a dispersion of 17°. This discrepancy may be due to true dispersion of the field in southern South America or it may be an artifact of inadequate sampling.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberQ01H04
JournalGeochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2004


  • Argon
  • Geochronology
  • Paleomagnetism
  • Secular variation


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