Uranium-lead (U-Pb) geochronology studies commonly employ the law of detrital zircon: A sedimentary rock cannot be older than its youngest zircon. This premise permits maximum depositional ages (MDAs) to be applied in chronostratigraphy, but geochronologic dates are complicated by uncertainty. We conducted laser ablation–inductively coupled plasma–mass spectrometry (LA-ICP-MS) and chemical abrasion–thermal ionization mass spectrometry (CA-TIMS) of detrital zircon in forearc strata of southern Alaska (USA) to assess the accuracy of several MDA approaches. Six samples from Middle–Upper Jurassic units are generally replete with youthful zircon and underwent three rounds of analysis: (1) LA-ICP-MS of ~115 grains, with one date per zircon; (2) LA-ICP-MS of the ~15 youngest grains identified in round 1, acquiring two additional dates per zircon; and (3) CA-TIMS of the ~5 youngest grains identified by LA-ICP-MS. The youngest single-grain LA-ICP-MS dates are all younger than—and rarely overlap at 2σ uncertainty with—the CA-TIMS MDAs. The youngest kernel density estimation modes are typically several million years older than the CA-TIMS MDAs. Weighted means of round 1 dates that define the youngest statistical populations yield the best coincidence with CA-TIMS MDAs. CA-TIMS dating of the youngest zircon identified by LA-ICP-MS is indispensable for critical MDA applications, eliminating laser-induced matrix effects, mitigating and evaluating Pb loss, and resolving complexities of interpreting lower-precision, normally distributed LA-ICP-MS dates. Finally, numerous CA-TIMS MDAs in this study are younger than Bathonian(?)–Callovian and Oxfordian faunal correlations suggest, highlighting the need for additional radioisotopic constraints—including CA-TIMS MDAs—for the Middle–Late Jurassic geologic time scale.

This content is PDF only. Please click on the PDF icon to access.