A zircon fission-track age of about 400,000 yr B.P. has been determined for the Rockland tephra, a widespread pyroclastic layer in northern California and western Nevada. New ages of zircon separates from both proximal and distal exposures of this layer range from 370,000 to 460,000 yr; ages of the best material provide a narrower range, from 370,000 yr for unwelded ash-flow tuff to 420,000 yr for distal air-fall ash that appears to be uncontaminated by clastic detritus or xenocrysts. Detrital or xenocrystic grains in the ash-flow tuff may have been annealed during emplacement and cooling of the tuff. Detrital and xenocrystic zircons are identified on the basis of their physical characteristics and distinctly older ages. Independent stratigraphic and magnetostratigraphic data constrain the age of the Rockland tephra between 300,000 and 600,000 yr, a range that is compatible with the fission-track age. Zircon grains containing no spontaneous (fossil) tracks are regarded as part of the normal population of comagmatic grains because maximum ages calculated for these grains form a population that mimics the distribution of ages of individual zircon grains that contain fossil tracks; modal ages of both groups fall between 250,000 and 500,000 yr. Induced fission tracks from grains that lack fossil tracks are included in the age calculations, resulting in significantly younger and more coherent dates than would result if these tracks had been omitted, especially those of the finer-grained distal samples.
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