Exhumation history of the north-central Shanxi Rift, North China, revealed by low-temperature thermochronology

Christopher Clinkscales, Paul Kapp, Houqi Wang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


We present new apatite U-Th-Sm/He (AHe; n = 51), apatite fission track data (AFT; n = 12), and zircon U-Th/He (ZHe; n = 8) data for two elevation transects in the north-central Shanxi Rift, North China. Low-temperature thermochronologic data combined with forward and inverse time-temperature history models reveal a Precambrian to Quaternary thermal history characterized by: (1) cooling to <∼50 °C during the Proterozoic, consistent with the development of a regional unconformity above Neoarchean–Paleoproterozoic cratonic basement rocks; (2) reheating to <∼180 °C due to sediment burial during the Paleozoic to Mesozoic; (3) cooling at a rate >3.5 °C/Ma during the Late Jurassic to earliest Cretaceous Yanshanian orogeny; (4) a possible ca. 120-90 Ma reheating event due to elevated geothermal gradients and/or local sediment burial; (5) Late Cretaceous (ca. 110-65 Ma) cooling contemporaneous with regional extension in eastern Asia and denudation of the paleo-Taihangshan highlands; and finally, (6) post ca. 10 Ma cooling associated with extension in the Shanxi Rift. AFT dates from the deepest exhumed structural positions of the sampled footwall blocks are mostly >65 Ma and AHe dates tend to be highly dispersed within samples. AFT inverse and AHe forward model results indicate that samples were at temperatures of <∼75 °C by ca. 70 Ma. Despite the early Cenozoic and older AFT and AHe dates, metamict zircon grains with high effective uranium (eU >∼750 ppm) yield young ZHe dates of ca. 13-9 Ma, consistent with Late Miocene exhumation. We argue for the onset of latest cooling by ca. 10 Ma based on these ZHe dates; however, the precise timing for the onset of rifting remains uncertain. The results further suggest that Late Miocene–Quaternary extension in the north-central Shanxi Rift is responsible for ≤∼2.5 km of exhumation, such that published Quaternary extension and fault throw rates are significantly (>100%) higher than long-term rates inferred from the thermochronologic data.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number116146
JournalEarth and Planetary Science Letters
StatePublished - Apr 15 2020


  • North China tectonics
  • intracontinental rifting
  • low-temperature thermochronology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geophysics
  • Geochemistry and Petrology
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Space and Planetary Science


Dive into the research topics of 'Exhumation history of the north-central Shanxi Rift, North China, revealed by low-temperature thermochronology'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this