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Similarly, in geology, if distinctive granitic pebbles can be found in the sediment beside a similar granitic body, it can be inferred that the granite, after cooling, had been uplifted and eroded and therefore was not injected into the adjacent rock sequence.
Although with clever detective work many complex time sequences or relative ages can be deduced, the ability to show that objects at two separated sites were formed at the same time requires additional information.
The same margin of error applies for younger fossiliferous rocks, making absolute dating comparable in precision to that attained using fossils.
To achieve this precision, geochronologists have had to develop the ability to isolate certain high-quality minerals that can be shown to have remained closed to migration of the radioactive parent atoms they contain and the daughter atoms formed by radioactive decay over billions of years of geologic time.
Episodes of global volcanic activity, rifting of continents, folding, and metamorphism are defined by absolute ages.
The results suggest that the present-day global tectonic scheme was operative in the distant past as well.plate tectonics has had a profound impact on the scientific understanding of our dynamic planet.
Just as the use of the fossil record has allowed a precise definition of geologic processes in approximately the past 600 million years, absolute ages allow correlations back to Earth’s oldest known rocks formed more than 4 billion years ago.
Unlike ages derived from fossils, which occur only in sedimentary rocks, absolute ages are obtained from minerals that grow as liquid rock bodies cool at or below the surface.
It is only by correlations that the conditions on different parts of Earth at any particular stage in its history can be deduced.
In addition, because sediment deposition is not continuous and much rock material has been removed by erosion, the fossil record from many localities has to be integrated before a complete picture of the evolution of life on Earth can be assembled.
Where this occurs at the edge of a continent, as along the west coast of North and South America, large mountain chains develop with abundant volcanoes and their subvolcanic equivalents.
These units, called igneous rock, or magma in their molten form, constitute major crustal additions.
The two approaches are often complementary, as when a sequence of occurrences in one context can be correlated with an absolute chronlogy elsewhere.