This dissertation contains two studies that use very different techniques to investigate the Mesozoic and Cenozoic tectonics of the western USA. The first study investigates shortening in the Sevier thrust belt of northeast Utah and southwest Wyoming using cross sections and seismic reflection data. The second study investigates the low-temperature thermochronology of the Laramide Ranges using apatite (U-Th)/He dating.
We used cross sections and seismic reflection data to investigate bed length discrepancies within the hanging wall of the Absaroka thrust in the Sevier thrust belt of northeast Utah and southwest Wyoming. Restoration of cross sections suggests that there was ∼8-14 km of pre-Absaroka-thrust shortening above the Jurassic Preuss salt detachment, but not below it, in the hanging wall of the Absaroka thrust. Reflection seismic data over the hanging wall of the Crawford thrust show that the Crawford thrust is not offset along the Preuss salt detachment, indicating that the additional shortening on the Absaroka plate was transferred east before main movement on the Crawford thrust. Although early displacement on the Crawford thrust cannot be ruled out as the cause of the extra shortening, surface and subsurface geology suggests slip from the western thrust system (Willard and Lost Creek thrusts) was transferred several tens of kilometers east along the Jurassic Preuss salt detachment between ∼102-90 Ma, to the future location of the Absaroka thrust hanging wall. The lack of deformation of the Crawford thrust on the seismic data, along with shortening and extension estimates from cross sections, also indicate that the magnitude of Paleocene and post-early Eocene shortening on the Medicine Butte thrust was essentially offset by subsequent extension on the middle Eocene to late Oligocene Almy-Acocks normal-fault system.
For the second study in this dissertation, we dated 91 borehole and surface samples from Laramide-age, basement-cored uplifts of the Rocky Mountain foreland (Wind River, Beartooth, Bighorn and Laramie Ranges) and the Uncompahgre Uplift using the apatite (U-Th)/He system. Apatite (U-Th)/He ages generally decrease with increasing subsurface depth (decreasing elevation) and most samples show age dispersion ranging from tens to hundreds of Myr. Additionally, several samples show correlations between apatite (U-Th)/He age and effective U concentration (eU = [U] + 0.235[Th]) of the crystal, indicating that radiation damage has affected He diffusivity, and hence (U-Th)/ He age. Many surface and near-surface samples have apatite (U-Th)/He ages that are older than corresponding apatite fission-track ages.
Forward modeling of Laramide-type thermal histories using a radiation damage diffusion model showed that (U-Th)/He ages may be widely dispersed, and may be older than corresponding apatite fission-track ages within a fossil He partial retention zone. Most of our samples, however, do not show the correlation between (U-Th)/He age and eU predicted by radiation damage diffusion models. We investigated the influence of both grain size and eU content and show that the effects of grain size can obscure (U-Th)/ He age-eU correlations and, similarly, the effect of eU variation can obscure (U-Th)/ He age-grain size correlations. (U-Th)/He ages that are older than fission-track ages from high peaks in the Wind River Range, and from some samples from the Beartooth Range, are most likely the result of He implantation from high eU phases.
Best-fit thermal histories from the inversion of age-eU pairs were extrapolated to other elevations to create model age-elevation profiles for a range of eU concentrations. These model profiles approximate our real data. Inverse modeling of (U-Th)/He age data suggests that rapid exhumation within the Laramide province likely began earlier in the Bighorn Mountains (before ∼71 Ma) than the Beartooth Range (before ∼58 Ma), and that the borehole at the northern end of the Laramie Range penetrated a fault sliver at depth.
|Advisor:||Reiners, Peter W., DeCelles, Peter G.|
|Commitee:||Chase, Clement G., Johnson, Roy A., Kapp, Paul, Zandt, George|
|School:||The University of Arizona|
|School Location:||United States -- Arizona|
|Source:||DAI-B 70/12, Dissertation Abstracts International|
|Subjects:||Geology, Plate Tectonics|
|Keywords:||Laramide Ranges, Sevier thrust belt, Shortening, Thermochronology, Uranium-thorium/helium|
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