Detrital-zircon U–Pb geochronology has revolutionized sediment provenance studies over the last two decades, and zircon has been successfully analyzed from nearly all sedimentary lithologies, depositional environments, and sediment grain sizes. However, despite the ubiquity of this method and the far-reaching interpretations supported by detrital-zircon data, few studies have investigated the potential role of zircon grain size on age spectra and provenance interpretation. In this study, we investigate the connections between sample grain size, zircon grain size, U–Pb age spectra, and interpreted provenance using 18 detrital-zircon samples (4999 individual grains) collected from Pennsylvanian–Permian strata in central and southern Arizona, USA. In these samples, there is no clear correlation between sample grain size and zircon grain size and no clear correlation between sample grain size and age spectra. However, when all grains are grouped by zircon minimum long-axis dimension, the abundance of some age groups is correlated to zircon grain size. In Pennsylvanian samples, < 400 Ma grains and 2500–3000 Ma zircons are more abundant in the finer fractions, and 1400–1900 Ma zircons are more abundant in coarser fractions of both Pennsylvanian and Permian samples. In Permian samples, 500–800 Ma zircons are most abundant in the finer fractions, and 2500–3000 Ma grains are concentrated in the coarser fractions. Based on changes in abundance and grain-size distribution of 500–800 Ma grains, we interpret a change in zircon provenance across the Pennsylvanian–Permian boundary that reflects regional climate and paleogeographic changes driven in part by the northward drift of Laurentia across the equator. Specifically, we interpret the concentration of 500–800 Ma zircons in Permian samples in central and southern Arizona to indicate that these grains were: 1) sourced from Gondwana, 2) deposited in, and subsequently eroded (recycled) from, Mississippian–Pennsylvanian strata in the Arkoma, Anadarko, and Fort Worth basins at the margins of Laurentia, and 3) finally transported into the Arizona study area as loess by easterly trade winds. This study serves as a case study in the value and interpretive power of basic grain-size characterization of detrital-geochronology datasets.

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