How accurate is potassium argon dating

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Developed in the 1950s, it was important in developing the theory of plate tectonics and in calibrating the geologic time scale.

What simplifies things is that potassium is a reactive metal and argon is an inert gas: Potassium is always tightly locked up in minerals whereas argon is not part of any minerals. So assuming that no air gets into a mineral grain when it first forms, it has zero argon content.

Thus, the ratio of argon-40 and potassium-40 and radiogenic calcium-40 to potassium-40 in a mineral or rock is a measure of the age of the sample.

The rock sample to be dated must be chosen very carefully.

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The potassium-argon (K-Ar) isotopic dating method is especially useful for determining the age of lavas.

The gas may include atmospheric gases, such as carbon dioxide, water, nitrogen, and argon, and radiogenic gases, like argon and helium, generated from regular radioactive decay over geologic time.

The abundance of Ar is unlikely to provide the age of intrusions of granite as the age typically reflects the time when a mineral cooled through its closure temperature.

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