Two-phase Neogene extension in the northwestern basin and range recorded in a single thermochronology sample

Joseph P. Colgan, David L. Shuster, Peter W. Reiners

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Scopus citations


We use a combination of apatite 4He/3He, (U-Th)/ He, and fission-track thermochronology to date slip on the Surprise Valley fault in northeastern California by analyzing a single sample from the Warner Range in the footwall of the fault. This sample, a granitic clast from a conglomerate, yielded a fission-track age of 11.6 ± 2.8 Ma and a (U-Th)/He age of 3.02 ± 0.52 Ma. Geologic relationships indicate that this sample was buried to a depth of ∼3.3 km prior to exhumation during slip on the Surprise Valley fault. Fission-track age and length data indicate that the sample was fully reset (&gt;120 °C) prior to exhumation, which began sometime after 14 Ma. A single aliquot of nine apatite grains was step-heated for 4He/3He analysis; modeling of the resulting 4He distribution indicates that cooling from <80 °C to ∼20 °C occurred between 3 and 1 Ma. Interconsistent time-temperature (t-T) solutions to the combined 4He/3He, (U-Th)/He, and fission-track data require two distinct periods of cooling, consistent with non-continuous slip on the Surprise Valley fault. Early cooling and fault slip took place between 14 and 8 Ma, followed by more recent fault slip ca. 3 Ma. This timing is consistent with both local geologic relationships and with the regional timing of faulting along the western margin of the Basin and Range Province. These data demonstrate the resolving power of combined fission-track, (U-Th)/He, and 4He/3He thermochronometric data to extract low-temperature t-T information from a single sample close to Earth's surface.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)631-634
Number of pages4
Issue number8
StatePublished - 2008


  • (U-Th)/He dating
  • Fission-track analysis
  • He/He thermochronology
  • Surprise Valley fault

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geology


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