Resolving spatial heterogeneities in exhumation and surface uplift in Timor-Leste: Constraints on deformation processes in young orogens

Garrett W. Tate, Nadine McQuarrie, Douwe J.J. Van Hinsbergen, Richard R. Bakker, Ron Harris, Sean Willett, Peter W. Reiners, Maria Giuditta Fellin, Morgan Ganerød, Willem Jan Zachariasse

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


Although exhumation and surface uplift are important parameters in understanding orogenesis, the opportunity to measure both in close proximity is rare. In Timor-Leste (East Timor), deeply exhumed metamorphic rocks and piggyback deepwater synorogenic basins are only tens of kilometers apart, permitting direct relation of uplift and exhumation by comparing micropaleontology to thermochronology interpreted through one-dimensional thermal modeling. Foraminifera in two deepwater synorogenic basins suggest basin uplift from depths of 1-2 km to depths of 350-1000 m between 3.35 and 1.88 Ma. Thermochronologic sampling was conducted in the central mountain belt between these basins. Of four muscovite 40Ar/39Ar samples, one provides a reset age of 7.13 ±â€‰0. 25 Ma in the Aileu high-grade belt that suggests ~9-16 km of exhumation since that time. Eighteen zircon (U-Th)/He samples contain a group of reset ages in the Aileu Complex ranging from 4.4 to 1.5 Ma, which suggest exhumation rates of 1.0-3.1 mm/yr with 2.7-7.8 km of exhumation since these ages. Thirteen apatite (U-Th)/He ages in the Gondwana Sequence range from 5.5 to 1.4 Ma, suggesting 1-2 km of exhumation and defining a pattern of exhumation rates (ranging from 0.2 to 1.3 mm/yr) that positively correlates with average annual rainfall. Seven apatite fission track samples display varying degrees of partial resetting, with greatest resetting where apatite (U-Th)/He ages are youngest. Together, these data demonstrate extreme variability in surface uplift and exhumation over small spatial scales. We propose ongoing subsurface duplexing driven by subduction and underplating of Australian continental crust as the predominant driver for surface uplift and uplift-induced exhumation. Key Points Timor shows large spatial and temporal heterogeneities in uplift and exhumation Exhumation patterns suggest subsurface duplexing below island of Timor.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1089-1112
Number of pages24
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2014


  • Timor
  • apatite
  • micropaleontology
  • muscovite
  • thermochronology
  • zircon

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geophysics
  • Geochemistry and Petrology


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