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Fault gouge dating: history and evolution

  • Peter Vrolijk (a1) (a2), David Pevear (a2) (a3), Michael Covey (a2) (a4) and Allan LaRiviere (a5)

Radiometric dating of fault gouges has become a useful tool for regional tectonics studies and for exploring and understanding fault and earthquake processes. Methods to define the absolute age of faults achieved a solid scientific foundation almost 25 years ago when the development and application of illite age analysis for investigating sedimentary burial and thermal histories found a new potential application – defining the age of fold-and-thrust development. Since then, the methods have benefitted from further development and incorporation of the 40Ar/39Ar micro-encapsulation method and quantitative clay mineral evaluation to distinguish polytypes (Wildfire). These refinements to the methods have improved their application in fold-and-thrust terrains and have opened up applications in normal and strike-slip fault environments. Another important development is the use of absolute dating methods in retrograde clay gouges in which clays in a fault develop from igneous or metamorphic wall rocks that contain no clays. In addition, the method has also been shown to be useful at dating folds in fold-and-thrust belts. We think the method is now an established part of the geological toolkit, look forward to future fault structural and tectonic studies that incorporate fault ages and hope that researchers continue to probe and discover ways that the method can assist fault process studies, including earthquake fault studies.

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This paper is based on the 2017 George Brown Lecture given by P. Vrolijk and was submitted for the special issue: ‘GG01 – Clays in faults and fractures + MI-03 clay mineral reaction progress in very low-grade temperature petrologic studies’ of ICC2017.

Guest Associate Editor: S.J. Kemp

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