Kenneth A. Farley

W.M. Keck Foundation Professor of Geochemistry

B.S., Yale University, 1986; Ph.D., University of California (San Diego), 1991. Assistant Professor, Caltech, 1993-96; Associate Professor, 1997-98; Professor, 1998-2003; Keck Foundation Professor, 2003-. Director, Tectonic Observatory, 2003-04; Division Chair, 2004-14.
Research Areas: Geochemistry

Research Interests

Noble gas geochemistry and its applications to a range of earth science problems: Rare gas composition of terrestrial materials; chemical evolution of the Earth's mantle and atmosphere; petrogenesis of oceanic lavas; low temperature thermochronometry; geologic record of interplanetary dust flux, methods and nuclear physics of cosmogenic surface exposure dating.
My research centers around noble gas geochemistry and its applications to a range of Earth Science problems: Rare gas composition of terrestrial materials; chemical evolution of the Earth's mantle and atmosphere; petrogenesis of oceanic lavas; low temperature thermochronometry; geologic record of interplanetary dust flux, methods and nuclear physics of cosmogenic surface exposure dating.  Below I describe my laboratory facilities and several of the projects we are currently pursuing.

Selected Publications

For a complete publications list, see



Last Updated May 15, 2006

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1. K.A. Farley and K.K. Turekian, 210Pb in the Circumpolar South Atlantic, Deep Sea Research, 37 (1990) 1849-1860.

2. K.A. Farley, James H. Natland, and H. Craig, Binary mixing of enriched and undegassed (primitive?) mantle components (He, Sr, Nd, Pb) in Samoan basalts. Earth Planet. Sci. Lett., 111 (1992) 183-199.

3. R.J. Poreda and K.A. Farley, Rare gases in Samoan xenoliths, Earth Planet. Sci. Lett., 113 (1992) 129-144.

4. K.A. Farley and H. Craig, Mantle plumes and mantle sources, Science, 258 (1992) 821.

5. K.A. Farley, A.R. Basu and H. Craig, He, Sr, and Nd isotopic variations in lavas from the Juan Fernandez Islands, Contrib. Min. Petrol., 115 (1993) 75-87.

6. K.A. Farley and R.J. Poreda, Mantle neon and atmospheric contamination, Earth Planet. Sci. Lett., 114 (1993) 325-339.

7. K.A. Farley, Is "primordial" helium really extraterrestrial?, Science, 261 (1993) 166-167.

8. K.A. Farley and H. Craig, Atmospheric argon contamination of ocean island basalt olivine phenocrysts, Geochim. et Cosmochim. Acta., 58 (1994) 2509-2517.

9. K.A. Farley, R.J. Poreda, and T.C. Onstott, Noble gases in deformed xenoliths from an ocean island: characterization of a metasomatic fluid, Noble Gas Geochemistry and Cosmochemistry (ed. J.I. Matsuda), Terrapub, Tokyo (1994) 159-178.

10. T. Torgerson, S. Drenkard, K. Farley, P. Schlosser, and A. Shapiro, Mantle helium in groundwater of the Mirror Lake Basin, New Hampshire, USA, in Noble Gas Geochemistry and Cosmochemistry (ed. J.I. Matsuda), Terrapub, Tokyo (1994) 279-292.

11. K.A. Farley, E. Maier-Reimer, P. Schlosser, and W.S. Broecker, Constraints on mantle 3He fluxes and deep-sea circulation from an oceanic general circulation model, J. Geophys. Res., 100 (1995) 3829-3839.

12. K.A. Farley (ed), Volatiles in the Earth and Solar System, AIP Conference Proceedings 341, AIP, New York, (1995).

13. K.A. Farley, D. Patterson, and B. McInnes, He isotopic investigation of geothermal gases from the Tabar-Lihir-Tanga-Feni Arc and Rabaul, Papua New Guinea, in Volatiles in the Earth and Solar System (ed. K.A. Farley), AIP, New York, (1995) 81-90.

14. K.A. Farley, Rapid cycling of subducted sediments into the Samoan mantle plume, Geology, 23 (1995) 531-534.

15. K.A. Farley, Cenozoic variations in the flux of interplanetary dust recorded by 3He in a deep-sea sediment, Nature, 376 (1995) 153-156.

16. J.M. Eiler, K.A. Farley, J.W. Valley, E.M.Stolper, E.H. Hauri, and H. Craig, Oxygen isotope evidence against bulk recycled sediment in the mantle sources of Pitcairn Island lavas, Nature, 377 (1995) 138-141.

17. K.A. Farley and D.B. Patterson, A 100-kyr periodicity in the flux of extraterrstrial 3He to the sea floor, Nature, 378 (1995) 600-603.

18. K.A. Farley, R.A. Wolf, and L.T. Silver, The effects of long alpha-stopping distances on (U-Th)/He dates, Geochim. et Cosmochim. Acta, 60 (1996) 4223-4229.

19. R.A. Wolf, K.A. Farley, and L.T. Silver, Helium diffusion and low temperature thermochronometry of apatite, Geochim. et Cosmochim. Acta, 60 (1996) 4231-4240.

20. J.M. Eiler, K.A. Farley, J.W. Valley, A.W. Hofmann, and E.M. Stolper, Oxygen isotope constraints on the sources of Hawaiian volcanism, Earth Planet. Sci. Lett, 144 (1996) 453-467.

21. J.M. Eiler, K.A. Farley, J.W. Valley, E. Hauri, H. Craig, S.R. Hart, and E.M. Stolper, Oxygen isotope variations in ocean island basalt phenocrysts, Geochim. et Cosmochim. Acta, 61 (1997) 2281-2293.

22. K.A. Farley, S.G. Love, and D.B. Patterson, Atmospheric entry heating and helium retentivity of interplanetary dust particles, Geochim. et Cosmochim. Acta, 61 (1997) 2309-2316.

23. R.A. Wolf, K.A. Farley, and L.T. Silver, Assessment of (U-Th)/He thermochronometry: the low temperature history of Mt. San Jacinto, California, Geology, 25 (1997) 65-68.

24. D.B. Patterson, K.A. Farley, and B. McInnes, Helium isotopic composition of geothermal gases, phenocrysts and xenoliths from the Tabar-Lihir-Tanga-Feni Island arc, Papua New Guinea, Geochim. et Cosmochim. Acta, 61 (1997) 2485-2496.

25. P.G. Burnard, K.A. Farley, and G. Turner, Multiple fluid phases in a Samoan harzburgite, Chem. Geol., 147 (1998) 99-114.

26. M.A. House, B.P. Wernicke, K.A. Farley, and T.A. Dumitru, Cenozoic thermal evolution of the central Sierra Nevada, California, from (U-Th)/He thermochronometry, Earth Planet. Sci. Lett., 151 (1997) 167-179.

27. J.M. Eiler, K.A. Farley, and E.M. Stolper, Correlated He and Pb isotope variations in Hawaiian lavas, Geochim. et Cosmochim. Acta.,62, 1977-1984, (1998).

28. J. Spotilla, K.A. Farley, and K. Sieh, Low temperature thermochronometry of the San Bernardino mountains, Tectonics, 17 (1998) 360-378.

29. K.A. Farley, and E. Neroda, Noble gases in the Earth's mantle, Annual Reviews Earth Planet. Sci., 26 (1998) 189-218..

30. R.A. Wolf, K.A. Farley, and D.M. Kass, A sensitivity analysis of the apatite (U-Th)/He thermochronometer, Chem. Geol.,148 (1998) 105-114.

31. D.B. Patterson, K.A. Farley, and M.D. Norman, 4He as a tracer of continental dust - a two million year record of aeolian flux to the equatorial western Pacific, Geochim. et Cosmochim. Acta, 63, 615-625, (1999).

32. D.B. Patterson and K.A. Farley, Extraterrestrial 3He in seafloor sediments: evidence for correlated 100 ka periodicity in the accretion rate of interplanetary dust, orbital parameters, and Quaternary climate, Geochim. et Cosmochim. Acta., 62, 3669-3682, (1998).

33. M.A. House, B.P. Wernicke, and K.A. Farley, Dating topographic uplift of the Sierra Nevada, California, using apatite (U-Th)/He ages, Nature, 396 66-69 (1998).

34. K.A. Farley, A. Montanari, E.M. Shoemaker, and C. Shoemaker, Geochemical evidence for a comet shower in the Late Eocene, Science, 280 (1998) 1250-1253.

35. D. B. Patterson, K.A. Farley, and B. Schmitz, Preservation of extraterrestrial 3He in a 480 Ma marine limestone, Earth Planet. Sci. Lett., 163 (1998) 315-325.

36. M.A. House, K.A. Farley, and B.P. Kohn, An empirical test of helium diffusion in apatite: borehole data from the Otway Basin, Australia, Earth Planet. Sci. Lett, 170, 463-474 (1999).

37. B.I.A. McInnes, K.A. Farley, R.H. Sillitoe, and B.P. Kohn, Application of apatite (U-Th)/He  thermochronometry to the determination  of the sense and amount of vertical fault displacement at the Chuqicamata porphyry copper deposit, Chile, Econ. Geol, 94, 937-947 (1999).

38. P.W. Reiners and K.A. Farley, Helium diffusion and (U-Th)/He thermochronometry of titanite, Geochim. et Cosmochim. Acta., 63, 3845-3859 (1999).

39. K.A. Farley, P.W. Reiners, and V. Nenow, An apparatus for high-precision helium diffusion measurements from minerals, Anal. Chem., 71 2059-2061 (1999).

40. G.J. Axen, M. Grove, D. Stockli, D.A. Rothstein, J.M. Fletcher, K.A. Farley, and P.L. Abbott, Thermal evolution of  Monte Blanco dome: Low angle normal during Gulf of California rifting and late Eocene denudationof the eastern Peninsular Ranges, Tectonics, 19, 197-212 (2000).

41. A.E. Blythe, D.W. Burbank, K.A. Farley, and E.J. Fielding, Structural and topographic evolution of the central Transverse Ranges, California, from apatite fission track, (U-Th)/He and digital elevation model analyses, Basin Research, in press (2000).

42. P.W. Reiners, R. Brady, K.A. Farley, J. Fryxell, B. Wernicke, D. Lux, Helium and argon thermochronometry of the Gold Butte Block, south Virgin Mountains, Nevada, Earth Planet. Sci. Lett, in press (2000).

44. K.A. Farley, Helium diffusion from apatite I: General behavior as illustrated by Durango fluorapatite, Journal of Geophysical Research, 105, 2903-2914 (2000).

45. J.M. Eiler, A. Crawford, T. Elliot, K.A. Farley, J.W. Vallley, and E.M. Stolper, Oxygen isotope geochemistry of oceanic-arc lavas, Journal Of Petrology, 41, 229-256 (2000).

46. P.G. Burnard and K.A. Farley, Calibration of pressure-dependent sensitivity and discrimination in Nier-type noble gas ion sources, G3, paper number 2000GC00038 (2000).

47. D.F. Stockli, K.A. Farley, and T.A. Dumitru, Calibration of the (U-Th)/He thermochronometer on an exhumed fault block, White Mountains, California, Geology, 28, 983-986 (2000).

48. M.A. House, K.A. Farley, and D.F. Stockli,  Helium chronometry of apatite and titanite using Nd-YAG laser heating, Earth Planet. Sci. Lett, 183, 365-368 (2000).

49. G.T. Batt, M.T. Brandon, K.A. Farley, and M.K. Roden-Tice. Tectonic synthesis of the Olympic Mountains segment of the Cascadia Wedge, using 2-D thermal and kinematic modeling of isotopic ages, Journal of Geophysical Research, 106, 26731-26746 (2001).

50. K.A. Farley, Extraterrestrial Helium in Seafloor Sediments: Identification, Characteristics, and Accretion Rate over Geologic Time, in Peucker-Ehrinbrink, B., and Schmitz, B., eds., Accretion of Extraterrestrial Matter Throughout Earth’s History, Kluwer, New York, p. 179-204 (2001).

51. S. Mukhopadhyay, K. A. Farley and A. Montanari, A 35 Myr record of helium in pelagic limestones: implications for interplanetary dust accretion from the early Maastrichtian to the Middle Eocene, Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta, 65, 653-659 (2001).

52. K.A. Farley, M.E. Rusmore, and S.W. Bogue, Exhumation and Uplift History of the Central Coast Mountains, British Columbia, from Apatite (U-Th)/He Thermochronometry, Geology, 29, 99-102 (2001).

53. M.A. House, B.P. Wernicke and K.A. Farley, Paleo-geomorphology of the Sierra Nevada, California, from (U-Th)/He ages in apatite, American Journal of Science, 301, 77-102 (2001).

54. S. Mukhopadhyay, K.A. Farley, and A. Montanari, A short duration of the Cretaceous-Tertiary boundary event: Evidence from extraterrestrial helium-3, Science, 291, 1952-1955 (2001).

55. K.A. Farley, T.E. Cerling, and P.G. Fitzgerald,  Cosmogenic He-3 in igneous and fossil tooth enamel fluorapatite, Earth Planet. Sci. Lett, 185, 7-14 (2001).

56. K.A. Farley and S. Mukhopadhyay, An extraterrestrial impact at the Permian-Triassic boundary?, Science, 293, U1-U3 (2001). (comment, online journal edition only).

57. P.W. Reiners and K.A. Farley,  Influence of crystal size on apatite (U-Th)/He thermochronology: an example from the Bighorn Mountains, Wyoming, Earth Planet. Sci. Lett., 188, 413-420 (2001).

58. P.R. Renne, K.A. Farley, T.A. Becker and W.D. Sharp, Terrestrial cosmogenic argon, Earth and Planetary Science Letters 188, 435-440  (2001).

59. E. Kirby, P.W. Reiners, M.A. Krol, K.X. Whipple, K.V. Hodges, K.A. Farley, W.Q. Tang and Z.L. Chen, Late Cenozoic evolution of the eastern margin of the Tibetan Plateau: Inferences from Ar-40/Ar-39 and (U-Th)/He thermochronology, Tectonics 21, art. no.-1001 (2002).

60. P.W. Reiners, K.A. Farley and H.J. Hickes, He diffusion and (U-Th)/He thermochronometry of zircon: initial results from Fish Canyon Tuff and Gold Butte, Tectonophysics 349, 297-308 (2002).

61. M.A. House, B.P. Kohn, K.A. Farley and A. Raza, Evaluating thermal history models for the Otway Basin, southeastern Australia, using (U-Th)/He and fission-track data from borehole apatites, Tectonophysics 349, 277-295 (2002).

62. K.A. Farley, B.P. Kohn and B. Pillans, The effects of secular disequilibrium on (U-Th)/He systematics and dating of Quaternary volcanic zircon and apatite, Earth and Planetary Science Letters 201, 117-125 (2002).

63. D.F. Stockli, B.E. Surpless, T.A. Dumitru and K.A. Farley, Thermochronological constraints on the timing and magnitude of Miocene and Pliocene extension in the central Wassuk Range, western Nevada, Tectonics 21, art. no.-1028 (2002).

64. P.G. Burnard, D.W. Graham and K.A. Farley, Mechanisms of magmatic gas loss along the Southeast Indian Ridge and the Amsterdam -St. Paul Plateau, Earth and Planetary Science Letters 203, 131-148 (2002).

65. K.A. Farley and D.F. Stockli, (U-Th)/He dating of phosphates: Apatite, monazite, and xenotime, in: Phosphates: Geochemical, Geobiological, and Materials Importance, REVIEWS IN MINERALOGY & GEOCHEMISTRY 48, pp. 559-577 (2002).

66. K.A. Farley, (U-Th)/He dating: Techniques, calibrations, and applications, in: Noble Gases in Geochemistry and Cosmochemistry, REVIEWS IN MINERALOGY & GEOCHEMISTRY 47, pp. 819-844 (2002).

67. S. Mukhopadhyay, J.C. Lassiter, K.A. Farley and S.W. Bogue, Geochemistry of Kauai shield-stage lavas: Implications for the chemical evolution of the Hawaiian plume, Geochemistry Geophysics Geosystems 4, art. no.-1009 (2003).

68. T.A. Ehlers and K.A. Farley, Apatite (U-Th)/He thermochronometry: methods and applications to problems in tectonic and surface processes, Earth and Planetary Science Letters 206, 1-14 (2003).

69. T. Tagami, K.A. Farley and D.F. Stockli, (U-Th)/He geochronology of single zircon grains of known Tertiary eruption age, Earth and Planetary Science Letters 207, 57-67 (2003).

70. K.A. Farley and S.F. Eltgroth, An alternative age model for the Paleocene-Eocene thermal maximum using extraterrestrial He-3, Earth and Planetary Science Letters 208, 135-148 (2003).

71. K.W. Min, K.A. Farley, P.R. Renne and K. Marti, Single grain (U-Th)/He ages from phosphates in Acapulco meteorite and implications for thermal history, Earth and Planetary Science Letters 209, 323-336 (2003).

72. P.A. Armstrong, T.A. Ehlers, D.S. Chapman, K.A. Farley and P.J.J. Kamp, Exhumation of the central Wasatch Mountains, Utah: 1. Patterns and timing of exhumation deduced from low-temperature thermochronology data, Journal of Geophysical Research-Solid Earth 108, art. no.-2172 (2003).

73. D.F. Stockli, T.A. Dumitru, M.O. McWilliams and K.A. Farley, Cenozoic tectonic evolution of the White Mountains, California and Nevada, Geological Society of America Bulletin 115, 788-816 (2003).

74. D.L. Shuster and K.A. Farley, He-4/He-3 thermochronometry, Earth and Planetary Science Letters 217, 1-17 (2004).

75. D.L. Shuster, K.A. Farley, J.M. Sisterson and D.S. Burnett, Quantifying the diffusion kinetics and spatial distributions of radiogenic He-4 in minerals containing proton-induced He-3, Earth and Planetary Science Letters 217, 19-32 (2004).

76. D.F. Stockli and K.A. Farley, Empirical constraints on the titanite (U-Th)/He partial retention zone from the KTB drill hole, Chemical Geology 207, 223-236 (2004).

77. R.K. Workman, S.R. Hart, M. Jackson, M. Regelous, K.A. Farley, J. Blusztajn, M. Kurz and H. Staudigel, Recycled metasomatized lithosphere as the origin of the enriched mantle II (EM2) end-member: Evidence from the Samoan volcanic chain, Geochemistry Geophysics Geosystems 5, art. no.-Q04008 (2004).

78. P.G. Burnard, D. Graham and K.A. Farley, Fractionation of noble gases (He, Ar) during MORB mantle melting: A case study on the Southeast Indian Ridge., Earth and Planetary Science Letters, 227, 457-472 (2004).

79. C. Koeberl, K.A. Farley, B. Peucker-Ehrinbrink and M. Sephton, Geochemistry of the Permian-Triassic boundary in Austria and Italy: No evidence for extraterrestrial impact, Geology 32, 1053-1056 (2004).

80. P.R. Renne, H.J. Melosh, K.A. Farley, W.U. Reimold, C. Koeberl, M.R. Rampino, S.P. Kelly, B.A. Ivanov, Is Bedout an impact crater? Take 2, Science 306, 610-611 (2004).

81. D.X. Belton, R.W. Brown, B.P. Kohn, D. Fink, K.A. Farley, Quantitative resolution of the debate over antiquity of the central Australian landscape: implications for the tectonic and geomorphic stability of cratonic interiors, Earth And Planetary Science Letters 219, 21-34 (2004).

82. R.A. Keller, D.W. Graham, K.A. Farley, R.A. Duncan, E. Lupton, Cretaceous-to-recent record of elevated He-3/He-4 along the Hawaiian-Emperor volcanic chain, Geochemistry Geophysics Geosystems 5, Art. No. Q12L05 (2004).

83. F.W. McDowell, W.C. McIntosh, K.A. Farley, A precise Ar-40-Ar-39 reference age for the Durango apatite (U-Th)/He and fission-track dating standard, Chemical Geology 214, 249-263 (2005).

84. D.L. Shuster, K.A. Farley, Diffusion kinetics of proton-induced Ne-21, He-3, and He-4 in quartz, Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta 69 2349-2359 (2005).

85. D.L. Shuster, P.M. Vasconcelos, J.A. Heim, K.A. Farley, Weathering geochronology by (U-Th)/He dating of goethite, Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta 69, 659-673 (2005).

86. K.A. Farley, P. Ward, G. Garrison, and S. Mukhopadhyay, Absence of extraterrestrial 3He in Permian-Triassic age sedimentary rocks, Earth and Planetary Science Letters 240 265-275 (2005).

87. D.L. Shuster, T.A. Ehlers, M.E. Rusmore, and K.A. Farley, Rapid glacial erosion at 1.8 Ma revealed by He-4/He-3 thermochronometry, Science 310 1668-1670 (2005).

88. M.K. Clark, G. Maheo, J. Saleeby, and K.A. Farley, The non-equilibrium landscape of the southern Sierra Nevada, California, GSA Today 15 4-10 (2005).

89. K.A. Farley, D. Vokrouhlický, W.F. Bottke, and D. Nesvorný, A Late Miocene dust shower from the break-up of an asteroid in the main belt, Nature 439 295-297 (2006).