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NOTE: The information in these handouts are

not my own but are from several references.
These handouts are made for reference to
points and not as a means to an end. Reading
from books and others references is still more
beneficial to learning.

70 well-dated meteorites using
different dating methods (e.g. Rb-Sr,
Sm-Nd, Ar-Ar) = 4.4-4.6 b.y.

Iron meteorite (Canyon Diablo
meteorite) = 4.54 b.y.

Age of the Solar System and the Universe
HISTORICAL GEOLOGY
What is Historical Geology?
-Deals with the origin of the Earth and its
development through time.

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-Strives to establish an orderly chronological
arrangement of the physical and biological
changes and events that have occurred in the
geologic past.
Previous Estimates of the Earth's Age
• Biblical Estimates: 6000 years
• Cooling through conduction and
radiation (Lord Kelvin, 1897): ~24 – 40
m.y.
• Rate of delivery of salt to the oceans
(John Joly, 1899-1901): ~90 – 100 m.y.
• Thickness of total sedimentary record
divided by average sedimentation rates
(1910): ~1.6 b.y.
Oldest Rocks on Earth
• Acasta Gneisses in northwestern
Canada (4.03 Ga)
• Isua Supracrustal rocks in Greenland
(3.7 to 3.8 Ga)
• Rocks found in the Minnesota River
Valley and northern Michigan (3.5-3.7
billion years)

“Best” age of the Universe: 14 – 17 b.y.

(Evidence: rate of evolution of
stars and age of elements in the
galaxy based on the production
ratios of Os isotopes in
supernovae)
(http://www2.nature.nps.gov/geology/
usgsnps/gtime/ageofearth.pdf)
RELATIVE DATING
• Putting rocks and events in their proper
sequence of formation
• Dating of rocks and rock units with the
use of fossils and correlation of
different strata
• Does not require numerical ages of
rocks or fossils or events
Principles of Relative Dating
1. Principle of Uniformitarianism


Oldest Materials on the Earth
 Zircon grains found in sedimentary
rocks in west-central Australia = 4.4 b.y.

Most accepted age for the Earth and
the rest of the solar system: ~4.55 b.y.
old (+ ~1%)
(http://pubs.usgs.gov/gip/geotime/age.

“The present is the key to the past.” –
James Hutton
Former changes of the earth’s surface
may be explained by reference to
causes in operation
What we see today can explain the
processes that have already occurred in
the past, taking into consideration the
different rates of these processes.

Paraconformity  Type of disconformity wherein beds above and below are parallel and the unconformity is identified by some evidence such as lack of certain diagnostic zone fossils in some horizon. Correlation • To show correspondence in character and in stratigraphic position (International Stratigraphic Guide) • To demonstrate correspondence between geographically separated parts of a geologic unit (North American Stratigraphic Code) • Based on similarity of lithologic and paleontologic features . b.When examining an undisturbed sequence of stratified rocks. Law of Original Horizontality -Most layers are deposited horizontally . any time period can be recognized by its fossil content. *Principle of Cross-cutting relationships .Sediments would spread out until 1) they thin out at the edge of the depositional basin. 6. Law of Superposition . Principle of Inclusions -The rock mass containing the inclusion is younger than the rock that provided the inclusion* depending on the scenario 4. Law of Lateral Continuity . Principle of Faunal Succession  Fossil organisms succeed one another in a definite and determinable order. b.Function of flow and gravity c. erosion removed previously formed rocks and then deposition resumed. the oldest strata will be at the bottom and the youngest strata will be on the top of the sequence. Unconformity  Surface between two rock layers   Gaps in the rock record representing: • a long period during which deposition ceased. Steno's Laws a. • a period of non-deposition. more flat-lying strata.2. Angular unconformity  Tilted or folded sedimentary rocks that are overlain by younger. Disconformity  Strata on either side of the unconformity are essentially parallel with a distinctly recognizable surface c.A fault or intrusion is younger than the rocks and structures it cuts. or 3)grade into another type of sediment (indicative of a change in the depositional environment) 3. Thus. 2) stop at a depositional barrier. Hiatus: time not represented in a series of rock layers a. Nonconformity  Older metamorphic or igneous rocks are overlain by younger sedimentary strata 5. d.

gas. clams and other invertebrates burrow into rocks and sediments d. Cast – filling of mold c. aragonite → calcite) c. Soft tissue – by mummification or freezing 2. teeth and woody tissue example: dinosaur bones Types of Fossilization 1.g. example: La Brea Tar Pits. Recrystallization – conversion of a mineral polymorph to another (e. coal) Index Fossils  widespread geographically  Its occurrence is limited to a certain range found in rocks  easily recognizable  For correlation ABSOLUTE DATING • Numerical dating of rocks. bone. Coprolites – fossil excrement e.Fossils and Fossilization What is fossilization? • Remains or traces of prehistoric life preserved in sedimentary rocks • Important time indicators and play a key role in the correlation of rocks • Include both the remains of organisms (bones or shells) and traces of organisms (trails. minerals and fossils • Utilizing radioactive isotopes • Assumptions: • It is a closed system. Chemical alteration of hard parts: a. teeth or pollen b. Petrification – replacement of wood 3. Preservation of unaltered body parts: a. oil. Borings and burrows – worms. Permineralization – porous material filled with secondary materials e. Hard parts – usually shells. meaning nothing is added or taken away • Take note that it is still an estimation Radioactive Isotopes  Isotopes – variants of the same atom but with different mass numbers . bones. Carbonization – soft tissues preserved as thin carbon film b.g. burrows or imprints) Requirements for Preservation • Rapid burial to prevent decomposition. Imprints of hard parts in sediment or trace fossils: a. Replacement – dissolution of original material and precipitation of new mineral d. California • Presence of protective cover or preserving medium example: Amber fossils • Possession of hard parts or durable tissues such as shells. polished stones found in the abdominal cavities of dinosaur skeletons Uses of Fossils • tracing the evolutionary history of extinct as well as living organisms • reconstructing paleoclimates and paleoenvironments • providing the source of energy resources (e. Gastroliths – smooth. Mold – dissolution of shell b.

Other REFERENCES used: 1Tarbuck. E. Undergo spontaneous breaking apart (decay) of certain unstable atomic nuclei Half -life: the length of time required for onehalf of the nuclei of a radioactive isotope to decay Most minerals which contain radioactive isotopes (except C14) are in igneous and metamorphic rocks. 3Hamblin. apatite and sphene. . K40 is usually found in potassium feldspar.K. F. Earth’s Dynamic Systems. 2 Hamblin. 10th ed. 1995. 7th ed. 1992.K. Earth Science. 2003. Earth’s Dynamic Systems.K.J. 6th ed. W. uraninite.. Uranium may be found in zircon.. muscovite and amphibole.. and Lutgens./11th ed. W.