Resolving mid- to upper-crustal exhumation through apatite petrochronology and thermochronology

Gilby Jepson, Barbara Carrapa, Sarah W.M. George, Antoine Triantafyllou, Shana M. Egan, Kurt N. Constenius, George E. Gehrels, Mihai N. Ducea

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


Double-dating using the apatite U-Pb and fission-track systems is becoming an increasingly popular method for resolving mid- to upper- crustal cooling. However, these thermochronometers constrain dates that are often difficult to link through geological time due to the large difference in temperature window between the two systems (typically >250 °C). In this study, we apply apatite U-Pb, fission-track, and apatite and whole rock geochemistry to fourteen samples from four tectonic domains common in Cordilleran orogenic systems: (1) basement-cored uplifts, (2) plutons intruded through a thick crustal column, (3) metamorphic core complexes and associated detachment faults, and (4) rapid, extrusive volcanic cooling, in order to provide a link between in situ geochemical signatures and cooling mechanisms. Comparisons of trace element partitioning between apatite and whole rock provide insights into initial apatite-forming processes and/or subsequent modification. Apatite trace element geochemistry and the Th/U and La/LuN ratios provide tools to determine if an apatite is primary and representative of its parent melt or if it has undergone geochemical perturbation(s) after crystallization. Further, we demonstrate that by using a combined apatite U-Pb, FT, trace element, and whole rock geochemistry approach it is possible to determine if a rock has undergone monotonic cooling since crystallization, protracted residence in the middle crust, and provide unique structural information such as the history of detachment faulting. Insights provided herein offer new applications for apatite thermochronology.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number120071
JournalChemical Geology
StatePublished - Mar 30 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geology
  • Geochemistry and Petrology


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