Ti-in-Zircon Thermometry: Applications and Limitations


The titanium concentrations of 484 zircons with U-Pb ages of ∼1 Ma to 4.4 Ga were measured by ion microprobe. Samples come from 45 different igneous rocks (365 zircons), as well as zircon megacrysts (84) from kimberlite, Early Archean detrital zircons (32), and zircon reference materials (3). Samples were chosen to represent a large range of igneous rock compositions. Most of the zircons contain less than 20 ppm Ti. Apparent temperatures for zircon crystallization were calculated using the Ti-in-zircon thermometer (Watson et al. 2006, Contrib Mineral Petrol 151:413–433) without making corrections for reduced oxide activities (e.g., TiO2 or SiO2), or variable pressure. Average apparent Ti-in-zircon temperatures range from 500° to 850°C, and are lower than either zircon saturation temperatures (for granitic rocks) or predicted crystallization temperatures of evolved melts (∼15% melt residue for mafic rocks). Temperatures average: 653 ± 124°C (2 standard deviations, 60 zircons) for felsic to intermediate igneous rocks, 758 ± 111°C (261 zircons) for mafic rocks, and 758 ± 98°C (84 zircons) for mantle megacrysts from kimberlite. Individually, the effects of reduced or TeX, variable pressure, deviations from Henry’s Law, and subsolidus Ti exchange are insufficient to explain the seemingly low temperatures for zircon crystallization in igneous rocks. MELTs calculations show that mafic magmas can evolve to hydrous melts with significantly lower crystallization temperature for the last 10–15% melt residue than that of the main rock. While some magmatic zircons surely form in such late hydrous melts, low apparent temperatures are found in zircons that are included within phenocrysts or glass showing that those zircons are not from evolved residue melts. Intracrystalline variability in Ti concentration, in excess of analytical precision, is observed for nearly all zircons that were analyzed more than once. However, there is no systematic change in Ti content from core to rim, or correlation with zoning, age, U content, Th/U ratio, or concordance in U-Pb age. Thus, it is likely that other variables, in addition to temperature and TeX, are important in controlling the Ti content of zircon. The Ti contents of igneous zircons from different rock types worldwide overlap significantly. However, on a more restricted regional scale, apparent Ti-in-zircon temperatures correlate with whole-rock SiO2 and HfO2 for plutonic rocks of the Sierra Nevada batholith, averaging 750°C at 50 wt.% SiO2 and 600°C at 75 wt.%. Among felsic plutons in the Sierra, peraluminous granites average 610 ± 88°C, while metaluminous rocks average 694 ± 94°C. Detrital zircons from the Jack Hills, Western Australia with ages from 4.4 to 4.0 Ga have apparent temperatures of 717 ± 108°C, which are intermediate between values for felsic rocks and those for mafic rocks. Although some mafic zircons have higher Ti content, values for Early Archean detrital zircons from a proposed granitic provenance are similar to zircons from many mafic rocks, including anorthosites from the Adirondack Mts (709 ± 76°C). Furthermore, the Jack Hills zircon apparent Ti-temperatures are significantly higher than measured values for peraluminous granites (610 ± 88°C). Thus the Ti concentration in detrital zircons and apparent Ti-in-zircon temperatures are not sufficient to independently identify parent melt composition.


Springer Verlag

Publication Date


Publication Title

Contributions To Mineralogy And Petrology



Document Type





Titanium, Zircon, Thermometry, Anorthosite, Gabbro, Granite, Early Archean, Jack Hills