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The Exhumation history of the European Alps inferred from linear inversion of thermochronometric data

Fox, M; Herman, F; Willett, SD; Schmid, SM; (2016) The Exhumation history of the European Alps inferred from linear inversion of thermochronometric data. American Journal of Science , 316 (6) pp. 505-541. 10.2475/06.2016.01. Green open access

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Abstract

Thermochronometric data collected across the Alps over the last three decades allows for investigation of the evolution of this orogen, which is subject to changes in climate and geodynamics. Exhumation rates are inferred from the thermochronometric ages using a statistical inversion method based on the fact that the distance a sample traveled since closure is equal to the integral of the exhumation rate from the present day to the age of the sample. Exhumation rates are assumed to be spatially correlated but are free to vary through time. This results in the quantification of exhumation rates across the Alps, since 32 Ma, along with assessments of the quality of these inferences. We find that exhumation rates are initially fast in the internal arc of the Western Alps at rates up to 0.8 km/Myr at 30 Ma, decreasing at 20 Ma to 0.3 km/Myr to remain slow to the present. At the same time, around 20 Ma, rates across the External Crystalline Massifs of Western Alps increase to 0.6 km/Myr. We also find that the onset of high exhumation rates in the Tauern Window and the Lepontine Dome occurs at around 20 Ma, a time characterized by major reorganizations in the Alpine chain. A general increase in exhumation rates at around 5 Ma over the entire Alps is not confirmed. Instead we find that the Western Alps exhibit a 2 to 3 fold increase in exhumation rate over the last 2 Ma, during a recent event not seen further east, in spite of very similar topographic characteristics. We attribute this strong signal to detachment of the European slab in the Western Alps, combined with efficient glacial erosion.

Type: Article
Title: The Exhumation history of the European Alps inferred from linear inversion of thermochronometric data
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.2475/06.2016.01
Publisher version: http://dx.doi.org/10.2475/06.2016.01
Language: English
Keywords: Science & Technology, Physical Sciences, Geosciences, Multidisciplinary, Geology, European Alps, Thermochronometry, Exhumation Rates, Landscape Evolution, Fission-Track Thermochronology, Swiss Molasse Basin, Resolution Teleseismic Tomography, Western Tauern Window, Italian Eastern Alps, Mont-Blanc Massif, Foreland Basin, Southern Alps, Mountain-Ranges, Crustal Deformation
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS > Faculty of Maths and Physical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS > Faculty of Maths and Physical Sciences > Dept of Earth Sciences
URI: http://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1566430
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