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Rapid erosion of the Southern African Plateau as it climbs over a mantle superswell

Abstract : We present new sedimentary flux data confirming that a large pulse of erosion affected the Southern African Plateau in the Late Cretaceous and is likely to be related to a major uplift episode of the plateau. This short phase of erosion (i.e., less than 30 Myr in duration) has commonly been difficult to reconcile with a mantle origin for the plateau anomalous uplift: given its size, the rise of the African superplume is likely to have lasted much longer. Here we demonstrate by using a simple model for fluvial erosion that tilting of the continent as it rides over a wide dynamic topography high cannot only cause rapid uplift of the plateau but also trigger continent-wide drainage reorganization, leading to substantial denudation in a relatively short amount of time. The amplitude and short duration of the sedimentary pulse are best reproduced by assuming a strong erodibility contrast between the Karoo sedimentary and volcanic rocks and the underlying basement. We also present a new compilation of paleoclimate indicators that shows a transition from arid to very humid conditions approximately at the onset of the documented erosional pulse, suggesting that climate may have also played a role in triggering the denudation. The diachronism of the sedimentary flux between the eastern and western margins of the plateau and the temporal and geographic coincidence between the uplift and kimberlite eruptions are, however, better explained by our tilt hypothesis driven by the migration of the continent over a fixed source of mantle upwelling.
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Jean Braun, François Guillocheau, Cécile Robin, Guillaume Baby, Hielke Jelsma. Rapid erosion of the Southern African Plateau as it climbs over a mantle superswell. Journal of Geophysical Research, American Geophysical Union, 2014, 119 (7), pp.6093-6112. ⟨10.1002/2014JB010998⟩. ⟨insu-01059459⟩

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