More than 400 successive lavas in Borgarfjördur, western Iceland, have been subjected to paleomagnetic and K-Ar age analysis. Volcanism in the region was virtually continuous between about 7.0 and 2 m.y. ago, during which time more than 3,500 m of volcanics and interbedded sediments accumulated. Regression analysis of the K-Ar age and aggregate thickness data demonstrates that the rate of growth of the lava pile was remarkably uniform at 730 m/m.y. throughout the whole period. The magnetostratigraphic and K-Ar data indicate a nearly complete record of the geomagnetic polarity history and extend the polarity time scale based upon data from subaerial volcanic rocks to about 6.5 m.y. ago. The boundaries of polarity epoch 5 are shown to be 5.34 and 5.83 m.y. Epoch 6 lies between about 6.54 and 5.83 m.y. ago, during which time three normal polarity events are recognized. The ages determined for the polarity-interval boundaries in this study confirm recent estimates derived from analyses of marine magnetic anomalies using sea-floor–spreading assumptions.
The results show that it is possible to obtain reliable K-Ar ages on lavas that have undergone zeolite facies metamorphism at temperatures up to about 150°C by careful selection of samples that are well crystallized and have their original high-temperature mineralogy preserved.
A revised estimate of 5.2 ± 0.1 m.y. is proposed for the age of the Miocene-Pliocene boundary.