Effects of titanomagnetite reordering processes on thermal demagnetization and paleointensity experiments

Julie A. Bowles, Mike J. Jackson

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8 Scopus citations


Titanomagnetite (Fe3- xTixO4, 0 ≤ x ≤ 1) is a common, naturally occurring magnetic mineral critical to many paleomagnetic studies. Underlying most interpretations is the assumption that, lacking chemical alteration, Curie temperature (Tc) remains constant. However, recent work has demonstrated that Tc of many natural titanomagnetites varies strongly as a function of thermal history, independent of chemical alteration. This is inferred to arise from reordering of cations and/or vacancies in the crystal structure, and changes occur at temperatures and times relevant to standard paleomagnetic thermal treatments. Because changes take place at T < Tc, they have the potential to dramatically affect thermal remanence acquisition or demagnetization, impacting interpretation of paleomagnetic results. Here we have modeled the effects of reordering on standard thermal demagnetization and paleointensity experiments. Results suggest that Tc changes during laboratory heating make it impossible to accurately measure the unblocking temperature spectrum without modifying it. Samples with a starting Tc0 less than the closure temperature (Tclose) for the reordering process will develop a high-temperature “tail” that did not exist prior to heating. Samples with a starting Tc0 > Tclose will have their original Tb spectrum truncated at T ≈ Tclose. Predicted behavior during Thellier-type paleointensity experiments results in only modest deviations in NRM-lost or pTRM*-gained from the nonreordering case. Much larger deviations are predicted for pTRM checks. Compared to paleointensity results from titanomagnetite-bearing pyroclastic deposits, modeled nonideal behavior occurs in the same temperature intervals, but is much more systematic. Reordering is likely one contributing factor to failure of paleointensity experiments.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4848-4858
Number of pages11
JournalGeochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 1 2016

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by National Science Foundation grants EAR-1315971 (to JB) and EAR-1315845 (to MJ). Data underlying the model are shown in the supporting information. Many thanks to reviewers Karl Fabian, Lennart de Groot, and Yongjae Yu who provided helpful feedback that improved this manuscript. In particular we thank Karl for suggesting the order-parameter formulation. This is IRM publication 1609.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016. American Geophysical Union. All Rights Reserved.


  • Curie temperature
  • paleointensity
  • paleomagnetism
  • thermal demagnetization
  • titanomagnetite


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