Self-reversed magnetization held by martite in basalt flows from the 1.1-billion-year-old Keweenawan rift, Canada

Nicholas L. Swanson-Hysell, Joshua M. Feinberg, Thelma S. Berquó, Adam C. Maloof

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


In some basalt flows of the 1.1-billion-year-old Keweenawan Rift exposed at Mamainse Point, Ontario, there is a magnetic phase that holds a remanence antiparallel to the populations of magnetite and hematite that are typical of flows in the succession. The paleomagnetic and geological context of this component demonstrates that it is not a chemical overprint whose remanence is attributable to a subsequently reversed geomagnetic field, but that the component is a self-reversal of the primary magnetization. Here we use rock magnetic experiments and Mössbauer spectroscopy to show that this phase occurs in the most oxidized flows and is held by a fine-grained population of hematite that acquired its self-reversed remanence through interactions with a phase of lower blocking temperature. We propose that this self-reversed hematite is a manifestation of the self-reversal phenomena that has been observed to occur experimentally during the transformation of maghemite to hematite and that has been attributed to negative exchange coupling across the crystal lattices. We suggest that hematite formed in association with iron-silicates in the basalt flows carries a remanence reflective of the field in which it formed, but that martite (hematite pseudomorphed after magnetite) which formed through the progressive oxidation of magnetite to maghemite with subsequent inversion to hematite carries the self-reversed remanence. This study marks the second time that a naturally occurring self-reversed magnetization has been attributed to this mechanism and marks the oldest reported instance of any type of self-reversed remanence. The martite that forms through this process has the ability to retain a record of the negative exchange coupling from the time of its formation for hundreds of millions of years.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)171-184
Number of pages14
JournalEarth and Planetary Science Letters
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - May 1 2011

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The experimental work was possible through a visiting fellowship to the Institute for Rock Magnetism (IRM) awarded to N.L.S.-H. The IRM is funded by the Keck Foundation , the National Science Foundation and the University of Minnesota . Excellent support at the IRM was provided by M. Jackson and J. Bowles. Fieldwork at Mamainse Point was funded through a Sigma Xi Grant-In-Aid awarded to N.L.S.-H. and with support from Princeton University . Fieldwork at Mamainse Point was conducted in collaboration with B. Weiss, D. Jones, C. Rose and N. Eichelberger. We thank C. Bayne of Bay Niche Conservancy for land access. Some of the paleomagnetic data presented herein was obtained at the Yale Paleomagnetic Laboratory which is run by D. Evans and funded by NSF and the David and Lucile Packard Foundation. The electron microscopy was funded by a Sigma Xi Grant-In-Aid to N.L.S.-H. and benefitted from the technical expertise of N. Seaton. This work has benefitted from discussions with S. Banerjee, J. Bowles, S. Bowring, M. Brown, S. Burgess, D. Evans, M. Jackson, D. Kent, T. Kilian, J. Kirschvink, R. Mitchell, B. Moskowitz, T. Raub, J. Tarduno and B. Weiss. We thank H. Halls and an anonymous EPSL reviewer for comments that improved the manuscript. This work is contribution number 1006 of the Institute for Rock Magnetism.


  • Antiparallel remanence
  • Exchange coupling
  • Hematite
  • Keweenawan Rift
  • Martite
  • Paleomagnetism
  • Rock magnetism
  • Self-reversal


Dive into the research topics of 'Self-reversed magnetization held by martite in basalt flows from the 1.1-billion-year-old Keweenawan rift, Canada'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this