Main content area

Thermal maturity of carbonaceous material in conodonts and the Color Alteration Index: Independently identifying maximum temperature with Raman spectroscopy

McMillan, Rhy, Golding, Martyn
Palaeogeography, palaeoclimatology, palaeoecology 2019 v.534 pp. 109290
Mississippian period, Raman spectroscopy, Triassic period, carbonates, color, fossils, graphene, sedimentary rocks, spectral analysis, temperature, British Columbia
The Color Alteration Index (CAI) of conodont specimens is commonly used for identifying the maximum temperature to which units of sedimentary rock, particularly carbonates, have been heated. Observable color variations in these fossils are thought to be a result of the thermally-induced structural evolution of organic carbonaceous matter (CM). Such temperature history information is extremely valuable for applications in hydrocarbon exploration as well as for constraining other temperature-related geological processes in sedimentary systems. However, the identification of CAI depends on the qualitative visual assessment of color, which, along with a host of other potential complications, may yield inaccurate determinations of maximum temperature. Raman spectroscopy allows thermally-induced structural changes in CM to be quantified, and it has been used to estimate the thermal maturity in metasedimentary rocks for almost two decades. Here, we use Raman spectroscopy of carbonaceous material (RSCM) in conodont specimens and their Mississippian to Upper Triassic host rocks from British Columbia, Canada, to estimate maximum temperatures based on the transformation (structural reorganization) of disordered carbon to graphite. This study demonstrates that the maximum temperatures experienced by conodont specimens, as calculated from RSCM using the Iterative Fitting of Raman Spectra (IFORS) technique, correlate well with CAI but lie outside the suggested ranges in some instances. This may be due to complex thermal histories of these conodont specimens or the influence of diagenetic alteration, not thermal histories, on conodont color. We recommend the application of Raman spectroscopic analyses of CM in conodonts and their host rocks to obtain more confident, accurate, and precise estimations of maximum temperature that are independent of CAI.