Tectonic Exhumation and Climate Driven Erosion in Extensional Mountain Blocks: Two Examples from California, USA
Mason, Cody Curtis
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The Pacific-North America plate boundary in central and southern California has a complex tectonic history, and constraints are poor for inception of an extensional fault system linked to the southern San Andreas fault, a major tectonic element of this plate boundary. Furthermore, decades of research has shown relationships between climate, tectonics, and surface processes in most orogens across the globe (e.g. Alps, Himalaya, Andes, Alaska Ranges), however the role climate plays in modulating erosion and mass fluxes from extensional mountains blocks to sedimentary basins over 104-5 yr timescales is debated. In the eastern California-Walker Lane shear zone, exposures of sedimentary basin fill allow inversion of erosion- and sediment-flux rates from a linked catchment-fan system within an extensional block. In this dissertation, I present two field and geo-thermochronology based studies that explore research topics related by common tectonic setting and geography within the Pacific-North America plate boundary. First I present new low-temperature thermochronology (apatite U-Th-Sm/He) and thermal history modeling to document the kinematic evolution of the Santa Rosa mountains, where the cooling history constrains initiation timing of the west Salton Detachment fault, and the southern San Andreas fault system. I document an age of ca. 8 Ma for exhumation initiation of the Santa Rosa block, from paleodepths of ~4.5–3 km, at vertical rates of ~0.15–0.36 mm/yr, accelerating to ~1.3 km/Ma since ca. 1.2 Ma during initiation of the San Jacinto fault zone. Second, I present a new data set of cosmogenic radionuclide-derived burial ages and paleodenudation rates (26Al/10Be) from the Pleasant Canyon complex in the Panamint Range, and show that denudation rate and sediment flux have varied by a factor of ~2x since the middle Pleistocene. I conclude high frequency variability is driven by climate change, and not tectonic perturbations, as supported by published constraints for exhumation timing. The middle Pleistocene transition from 40–100 ka periodicity may drive the observed changes, a tentative conclusion that makes testable predictions for stratigraphic records of past climate in other locations. Empirical evidence for climate-modulated erosion and sediment flux provides valuable constraints for numerical models of landscape evolution and sedimentary basin architecture.
- Doctoral Dissertations