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Avery, MS, Gee JS, Bowles JA, Jackson MJ.  2018.  Paleointensity estimates from ignimbrites: The Bishop Tuff Revisited. Geochemistry Geophysics Geosystems. 19:3811-3831.   10.1029/2018gc007665   AbstractWebsite

Volcanic ash flow tuffs (ignimbrites) may contain single domain-sized (titano) magnetite that should be good for recording geomagnetic field intensity, but due to their complex thermal histories also contain other magnetic grains, which can complicate and obscure paleointensity determination. An initial study of the suitability of the similar to 767ka Bishop Tuff for measuring paleointensity found an internally consistent estimate of 43.03.2T. This initial study also showed a spatial heterogeneity in reliable paleointensity estimates that is possibly associated with vapor-phase alteration and fumarolic activity, which motivated resampling of the Bishop Tuff to examine spatial changes in magnetic properties. Three new stratigraphic sections of the Bishop Tuff within the Owens River gorge were sampled, and the paleointensity results from the initial study in the same locality were reinterpreted. The mean of all sites is 41.911.8T; this agrees with the initial study's finding but with substantially greater scatter. Two sections show evidence of vapor-phase alteration where the presence of titanohematite, likely carrying a thermochemical remanence, produces nonideal behavior. This thermochemical remanence in the upper portion of the section also produces some paleointensity estimates of technically high quality that have significantly higher intensity than the rest of the tuff. Our best estimate for paleointensity, 39.69.9T, comes from the densely welded ignimbrite that was emplaced above the Curie temperature of magnetite. The low permeability of this unit likely shielded it from vapor-phase alteration. Our results suggest that care must be taken in interpreting paleointensity data from large tuffs as nonthermal remanence may be present. Understanding past variations of Earth's magnetic field help us understand processes in Earth's core and help us to better understand current field behavior, which is important to life on Earth. Earth's field is recorded by magnetic-minerals in rocks as they form. Variations in the strength of the magnetic field (paleointensity) are less well known than large variations in direction. This is partially due to the difficulty in identifying rocks that are suitable for paleointensity experiments. Rocks made of volcanic ash (ignimbrites) have been shown to successfully record the field strength during recent volcanic eruptions. However, we show evidence that ignimbrites may not all be suitable for paleointensity studies. The Bishop Tuff, located in eastern California, erupted about 767 thousand years ago, emplacing a large volume (similar to 200km(3), i.e., about 80 million Olympic swimming pools or slightly bigger than Lake Tahoe) of ash and lava over a few days. With samples from the Bishop Tuff we test variations in magnetic-mineralogy that may be related to venting volcanic gas, interaction with water, eruption temperatures, or the degree to which the ash compacted and solidified into rock. These factors affect the magnetic-minerals' ability to record paleointensity and the success rate of our experiments.

Mitra, R, Tauxe L, Gee JS.  2011.  Detecting uniaxial single domain grains with a modified IRM technique. Geophysical Journal International. 187:1250-1258.   10.1111/j.1365-246X.2011.05224.x   AbstractWebsite

Mid-ocean ridge basalt (MORB) specimens have often been found to have high ratios of saturation remanence to saturation magnetization (M(rs)/M(s)). This has been attributed either to dominant cubic anisotropy or to insufficient saturating field leading to overestimation of M(rs)/M(s) of a dominantly uniaxial single domain (USD) assemblage. To resolve this debate, we develop an independent technique to detect USD assemblages. The experimental protocol involves subjecting the specimen to bidirectional impulse fields at each step. The experiment is similar to the conventional isothermal remanent magnetization (IRM) acquisition experiment but the field is applied twice, in antiparallel directions. We define a new parameter, IRAT, as the ratio of the remanences at each field step and show it to have characteristic behaviour for the two assemblages; IRAT similar to 1 at all field steps for USD and <1 with a strong field dependence for multi-axial single domain (MSD) grains. We verified the theoretical predictions experimentally with representative USD and MSD specimens. Experiments with MORBs gave low IRATs for specimens having high M(rs)/M(s). This argues for a dominant MSD assemblage in the MORBs, possibly cubic in nature. Although undersaturation of the samples can indeed be a contributing factor to the exceptionally high M(rs)/M(s), this study shows that the nature of the assemblage cannot be dominantly USD.

Gee, JS, Yu YJ, Bowles J.  2010.  Paleointensity estimates from ignimbrites: An evaluation of the Bishop Tuff. Geochemistry Geophysics Geosystems. 11   10.1029/2009gc002834   AbstractWebsite

Ash flow tuffs, or ignimbrites, typically contain fine-grained magnetite, spanning the superparamagnetic to single-domain size range that should be suitable for estimating geomagnetic field intensity. However, ignimbrites may have a remanence of thermal and chemical origin as a result of the complex magnetic mineralogy and variations in the thermal and alteration history. We examined three stratigraphic sections through the similar to 0.76 Ma Bishop Tuff, where independent information on postemplacement cooling and alteration is available, as a test of the suitability of ignimbrites for paleointensity studies. Thermomagnetic curves suggest that low-Ti titanomagnetite (T(c) = 560 degrees C-580 degrees C) is the dominant phase, with a minor contribution from a higher Tc phase(s). Significant remanence unblocking above 580 degrees C suggests that maghemite and/or (titano)maghemite is an important contributor to the remanence in most samples. We obtained successful paleofield estimates from remanence unblocked between 440 degrees C and 580 degrees C for 46 of 89 specimens (15 sites at two of three total localities). These specimens represent a range of degrees of welding and have variable alteration histories and yet provide a consistent paleofield estimate of 43.0 mu T (+/- 3.2), equivalent to a VADM of 7.8 x 10(22) Am(2). The most densely welded sections of the tuff have emplacement temperatures inferred to be as high as similar to 660 degrees C, suggesting that the remanence may be primarily thermal in origin, though a contribution from thermochemical remanence cannot be excluded. These results suggest that ignimbrites may constitute a viable material for reliable paleointensity determinations.