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Limits to reconstructing paleotopography from thermochronometer data

  • Recent studies suggest that orogens can achieve a topographic steady state whereby equilibrium is reached between tectonics and erosion. However, steady state topography may not be the norm in many orogens experiencing large changes in climate or tectonics, which can produce topographic transients. The quantification of transient topography over geologic timescales requires reconstructing paleotopography, but this has proven difficult in many cases. This study investigates the utility of bedrock thermochronometer data to reconstruct orogen paleotopography over million year timescales. Apatite (U-Th)/He and fission track ages are integrated with a thermokinematic model for a single-parameter inversion of paleotopography. An iterative scheme is used that minimizes the misfit between predicted and observed cooling ages to identify the range of paleotopographies that could produce observed ages within sample uncertainty. Two approaches are considered. First, synthetic 2- D topographies are used to test the robustness of the approach. TheRecent studies suggest that orogens can achieve a topographic steady state whereby equilibrium is reached between tectonics and erosion. However, steady state topography may not be the norm in many orogens experiencing large changes in climate or tectonics, which can produce topographic transients. The quantification of transient topography over geologic timescales requires reconstructing paleotopography, but this has proven difficult in many cases. This study investigates the utility of bedrock thermochronometer data to reconstruct orogen paleotopography over million year timescales. Apatite (U-Th)/He and fission track ages are integrated with a thermokinematic model for a single-parameter inversion of paleotopography. An iterative scheme is used that minimizes the misfit between predicted and observed cooling ages to identify the range of paleotopographies that could produce observed ages within sample uncertainty. Two approaches are considered. First, synthetic 2- D topographies are used to test the robustness of the approach. The following topographic evolution scenarios are considered: (1) lateral ridge migration, (2) topographic relief change, and (3) valley widening and deepening from glaciation. Second, the method is applied in three dimensions to existing data from the Coast Mountains of British Columbia, Canada. Results from both applications of the model suggest that (1) paleotopographic reconstruction will typically underpredict the magnitude of topographic change, especially relief change; (2) paleotopography is most successfully reconstructed after lateral ridge migration in long-wavelength topographies; and (3) reconstructed paleotopography from the Coast Mountains, British Columbia, suggests that glacial erosion may have the potential to remove drainage divides and laterally shift topographic ridges and peaks.‚Ķshow moreshow less

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Metadaten
Author:Stephanie M. Olen, Todd A. Ehlers, Mathew S. Densmore
DOI:https://doi.org/10.1029/2011JF001985
ISSN:0148-0227 (print)
Parent Title (English):JOURNAL OF GEOPHYSICAL RESEARCH-EARTH SURFACE
Publisher:AMER GEOPHYSICAL UNION
Place of publication:WASHINGTON
Document Type:Article
Language:English
Year of first Publication:2012
Year of Completion:2012
Release Date:2017/03/26
Volume:117
Pagenumber:20
Funder:U.S. National Science Foundation [EAR-0724656]; German Science Foundation (DFG) [EH329/1-1]