Paleothermometry of the Sydney Basin (Australia)

M. F. Middleton, P. W. Schmidt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

122 Citations (Scopus)


Evidence from overprinting of magnetization of Late Permian and Mesozoic rocks and from the rank of Permian coals and Mesozoic phytoclasts (coal particles) suggests that surface rocks in Sydney Basin, E Australia, have been raised to temperatures of the order of 200ºC or higher. As vitrinite reflectance, an index of coal rank or coalification, is postulated to vary predictably with temperature and time, estimates of the paleotemperatures in the Sydney Basin based on observed vitrinite reflectance measurements can be made in conjunction with reasonable assumptions about the tectonic and thermal histories of the basin. These estimates give maximum paleotemperatures of present day surface rocks in the range 60-249ºC, depending on factors such as location in the basin, the thickness of the sediment eroded, and the maximum paleogeothermal gradient. Higher coal rank and, consequently, larger eroded thicknesses and paleogeothermal gradients occur along the E edge of the basin and may be related to seafloor spreading in the Tasman Sea on the basin's eastern margin. A theory of thermal activation of magnetization entailing the dependence of magnetic viscosity on the size distribution of the magnetic grains is used to obtain an independent estimate of the maximum paleotemperatures in the Sydney Basin. This estimate places the maximum paleotemperature in the range 250–300°C along the coastal region. Both coalification and thermal activation of magnetization models provide strong evidence of elevated paleo-temperatures, which in places exceed 200°C, and the loss of sediment thicknesses in excess of 1 km due to erosion.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5351-5359
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research
Issue numberB7
Publication statusPublished - 1982
Externally publishedYes


Dive into the research topics of 'Paleothermometry of the Sydney Basin (Australia)'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this