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First up, let’s look at an Age Spectrum: In the diagram below I have drawn 2 different age spectra.The bottom, green spectrum is what we would expect to see if we had an ideal sample that has no excess-Ar, and the top, blue spectrum is what we might expect if the sample contained excess-Ar in fluid inclusions.That means, as you move to the right of the graph, you either have more chocolate, or less cream (or both).That also means that, if you move to the left of the graph, you have less chocolate or more cream (or both).The X-axis (horizontal) shows the cumulative percentage of Ar released in the experiment and each step is plotted sequentially, which means, for stepped heating experiments, temperature increases to the right.If you look at the width of the boxes you can tell which heating steps released the most Ar* and should usually be evenly distributed throughout the crystal, so we can use this to understand something about where in the crystal the gas we analysed came from.This means that the ages we calculate from the first few temperature steps will be older than the later steps that release gas from the crystal lattice.You can see how this typically manifests in the blue age-spectrum, where the first 3 steps have older ages than the later steps.
We call this part of the spectrum the plateau, because it is flat. If the final dessert has half ganache and half coconut pudding, then it will have 35% chocolate, 25% coconut and 40% cream.
Ar dating publications use age spectrum and isotope correlation diagrams to interpret their data and calculate ages.
These can be quite confusing if you don’t know how to interpret them so I have sketched some schematic examples to explain how they work.
But what if there are fluid inclusions in the sample that add excess-Ar, like we discussed in the last blog?
Well, it is quite common for these inclusions to break down and release their gas at relatively low temperatures.
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If the value is smaller, that means there is more Ar* value and use this to calculate the age of the sample.