Abstract

Isotopic studies of fluid inclusions from meteoric water-dominated epithermal ore deposits offer a unique opportunity to study paleoclimates because the fluids can provide direct samples of ancient waters. The oxygen and hydrogen isotope compositions of meteoric waters vary because of changes in climatic variables such as mean annual temperature of precipitation, relative humidity, origin and history of air masses, and the isotope composition of the oceans. Inclusion fluids found in fluorite (CaF2) are especially useful because their host is devoid of oxygen or hydrogen, thus precluding postentrapment isotope exchange. Fluorite-hosted fluid inclusions from the Eocene (51-50 Ma) epithermal deposits of the Bayhorse mining district, northeastern Idaho, have low salinities, most less than 0.6 equivalent wt% NaCl, and low to moderate homogenization temperatures (98 to 146 °C), indicating meteoric origins for the fluids. Oxygen and hydrogen isotope data on inclusion fluids are almost identical to those of modern meteoric waters in the area. The equivalence of the isotope composition of the Eocene inclusion fluids and modern meteoric waters indicates that the Eocene climatic conditions were similar to those today. This conclusion supports the climate modeling of Sloan and Barron, who suggested that the climates of continental interiors do not reflect the magnitude of warming preserved by the deep-ocean paleoclimate record during the Eocene.

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