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Comparative Uranium-Thorium and Thermoluminescence Dating of Weathered Quaternary Alluvium in the Tropics of Northern Australia

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  20 January 2017

Gerald C. Nanson
Department of Geography, University of Wollongong, P.O. Box 1144, Wollongong, 2500, Australia
David M. Price
Department of Geography, University of Wollongong, P.O. Box 1144, Wollongong, 2500, Australia
Stephen A. Short
Department of Geology, University of Wollongong, P.O. Box 1144, Wollongong, 2500, Australia
Robert W. Young
Department of Geography, University of Wollongong, P.O. Box 1144, Wollongong, 2500, Australia
Brian G. Jones
Environmental Radiochemistry Laboratory, Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation, Private Mail Bag 1, Menai, 2234, Australia


Thermoluminescence (TL) age determinations of alluvial sediments in the tropics are evaluated by comparison with U/Th age determinations of pedogenic accumulations in the alluvium of the lower Gilbert River, a large fan delta in the wet-dry tropics of northern Queensland, Australia. This study extends U/Th dating by applying it not only to calcretes, but also to Fe/Mn oxyhydroxide/oxide accumulations. While a direct correlation cannot be made between U/Th dates from secondary minerals and TL dates from the host sediments, both sets of data show broad consistency. In addition to providing a minima for acceptable TL ages, U/Th dates are useful for determining the chronology of pedogenesis/diagenesis. They show that calcretes and ferricretes have formed under similar climatic conditions in the wet-dry tropics of northern Australia during the late pleistocene. Beneath about 5–12 m the Gilbert fan delta consists of an extensive sand body older than 85,000 yr and probably about 120,000 yr in age, representative of a period of major fluvial activity not repeated since this time. Above are muds and fine sandy muds that extend uninterrupted to the present surface except in the downstream fan where they are bisected by a thin unit of medium sand that TL dates at 40,000–50,000 yr B.P. A system of sandy distributary channels over the fan surface represents an early Holocene fluvial phase probably more active than at present.

Research Article
University of Washington

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