Abstract

This study revises and improves the chronostratigraphic framework for late Turonian through early Campanian time based on work in the Western Interior U.S. and introduces new methods to better quantify uncertainties associated with the development of such time scales. Building on the unique attributes of the Western Interior Basin, which contains abundant volcanic ash beds and rhythmic strata interpreted to record orbital cycles, we integrate new radioisotopic data of improved accuracy with a recently published astrochronologic framework for the Niobrara Formation. New 40Ar/39Ar laser fusion ages corresponding to eight different ammonite biozones are determined by analysis of legacy samples, as well as newly collected material. These results are complemented by new U-Pb (zircon) chemical abrasion–isotope dilution–thermal ionization mass spectrometry ages from four biozones in the study interval. When combined with published radioisotopic data from the Cenomanian-Turonian boundary, paired 206Pb/238U and 40Ar/39Ar ages spanning Cenomanian to Campanian time support an astronomically calibrated Fish Canyon sanidine standard age of 28.201 Ma. Stage boundary ages are estimated via integration of new radioisotopic data with the floating astrochronology for the Niobrara Formation. The ages are determined by anchoring the long eccentricity bandpass from spectral analysis of the Niobrara Formation to radioisotopic ages with the lowest uncertainty proximal to the boundary, and adding or subtracting time by parsing the 405 k.y. cycles. The new stage boundary age determinations are: 89.75 ± 0.38 Ma for the Turonian-Coniacian, 86.49 ± 0.44 Ma for the Coniacian-Santonian, and 84.19 ± 0.38 Ma for the Santonian-Campanian boundary. The 2σ uncertainties for these estimates include systematic contributions from the radioisotopic measurements, astrochronologic methods, and geologic uncertainties (related to stratigraphic correlation and the presence of hiatuses). The latter geologic uncertainties have not been directly addressed in prior time scale studies and their determination was made possible by critical biostratigraphic observations. Each methodological approach employed in this study—new radioisotopic analysis, stratigraphic correlation, astrochronology, and ammonite and inoceramid biostratigraphy—was critical for achieving the final result.

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