Anomalously old biotite 40Ar/39Ar ages in the NW Himalaya

Stübner, Konstanze; Warren, Clare; Ratschbacher, Lothar; Sperner, Blanka; Kleeberg, Reinhard; Pfänder, Jörg and Grujic, Djordje (2017). Anomalously old biotite 40Ar/39Ar ages in the NW Himalaya. Lithosphere, 9(3) pp. 366–383.



Biotite 40Ar/39Ar ages older than corresponding muscovite 40Ar/39Ar ages, contrary to the diffusion properties of these minerals, are common in the Himalaya and other metamorphic regions. In these cases, biotite 40Ar/39Ar ages are commonly dismissed as “too old” on account of “excess Ar.” We present 32 step-heating 40Ar/39Ar ages from 17 samples from central Himachal Pradesh Himalaya, India. In almost all cases, the biotite ages are older than predicted from cooling histories. We document host-rock lithology and chemical composition, mica microstructures, biotite chemical composition, and chlorite and muscovite components of biotite separates to demonstrate that these factors do not offer an explanation for the anomalously old biotite 40Ar/39Ar ages. We discuss possible mechanisms that may account for extraneous Ar (inherited or excess Ar) in these samples. The most likely cause for “too-old” biotite is excess Ar, i.e., 40Ar that is separated from its parent K. We suggest that this contamination resulted from one or several of the following mechanisms: (1) 40Ar was released during Cenozoic prograde metamorphism; (2) 40Ar transport was restricted due to a temporarily dry intergranular medium; (3) 40Ar was released from melt into a hydrous fluid phase during melt crystallization. Samples from the Main Central Thrust shear zone may be affected by a different mechanism of excess-Ar accumulation, possibly linked to later-stage fluid circulation within the shear zone and chloritization. Different Ar diffusivities and/or solubilities in biotite and muscovite may explain why biotite is more commonly affected by excess Ar than muscovite.

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