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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.In fact, even in younger rocks, absolute dating is the only way that the fossil record can be calibrated.
Any feature, including colour variations, textures, fossil content, mineralogy, or any unusual combinations of these can be used.
These include some that establish a relative chronology in which occurrences can be placed in the correct sequence relative to one another or to some known succession of events.
Radiometric dating and certain other approaches are used to provide absolute chronologies in terms of years before the present.
Similarly, in geologic studies, vast quantities of information from widely spaced outcrops have to be integrated.
Some method of correlating rock units must be found.
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.When rocks are subjected to high temperatures and pressures in mountain roots formed where continents collide, certain datable minerals grow and even regrow to record the timing of such geologic events.When these regions are later exposed in uptilted portions of ancient continents, a history of terrestrial rock-forming events can be deduced.The two approaches are often complementary, as when a sequence of occurrences in one context can be correlated with an absolute chronlogy elsewhere.Local relationships on a single outcrop or archaeological site can often be interpreted to deduce the sequence in which the materials were assembled.Episodes of global volcanic activity, rifting of continents, folding, and metamorphism are defined by absolute ages.