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Among the best-known techniques are radiocarbon dating, potassium–argon dating and uranium–lead dating.
By allowing the establishment of geological timescales, it provides a significant source of information about the ages of fossils and the deduced rates of evolutionary change.
An example is shown in Figure 8.16; radiocarbon dates from wood fragments in glacial sediments have been used to estimate the time of the last glacial advance along the Strait of Georgia.
Figure 8.16 Radiocarbon dates on wood fragments in glacial sediments in the Strait of Georgia [SE after Clague, J, 1976, Quadra Sand and its relation to late Wisconsin glaciation of southeast British Columbia, Can.
Radiometric dating is also used to date archaeological materials, including ancient artifacts.
Different methods of radiometric dating vary in the timescale over which they are accurate and the materials to which they can be applied.
C) can be applied to many geological materials, including sediments and sedimentary rocks, but the materials in question must be younger than 60 ka.
Fragments of wood incorporated into young sediments are good candidates for carbon dating, and this technique has been used widely in studies involving late Pleistocene glaciers and glacial sediments.
Isotopic dating of rocks, or the minerals in them, is based on the fact that we know the decay rates of certain unstable isotopes of elements and that these rates have been constant over geological time.Some of the other important pairs are listed in Table 8.2, along with the age ranges that they apply to and some comments on their applications.