Thermochronology is the study of the thermal evolution of a region of a planet. Thermochronologists use radiometric dating along with the closure temperatures that represent the temperature of the mineral being studied at the time given by the date recorded, to understand the thermal history of a specific rock, mineral, or geologic unit. It is a subfield within geology, and is closely associated with geochronology.
A typical thermochronological study will involve the dates of a number of rock samples from different areas in a region, often from a vertical transect along a steep canyon, cliff face, or slope. These samples are then dated. With some knowledge of the subsurface thermal structure, these dates are translated into depths and times at which that particular sample was at the mineral's closure temperature. If the rock is today at the surface, this process gives the exhumation rate of the rock.
Common isotopic systems used for thermochronology include fission track dating in zircon and apatite, potassium-argon and argon-argon dating in apatite, uranium-thorium-helium dating in zircon and apatite, and 4He/3He dating.
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