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Decoding low-temperature thermochronology signals in mountain belts: modelling the role of rift thermal imprint into continental collision

Sébastien Ternois 1, 2, 3, 4, * Frédéric Mouthereau 5 Anthony Jourdon 6 
* Corresponding author
2 Géodynamique - UMR7327
BRGM - Bureau de Recherches Géologiques et Minières (BRGM), ISTO - Institut des Sciences de la Terre d'Orléans - UMR7327 : UMR7327, INSU - CNRS - Institut national des sciences de l'Univers, UO - Université d'Orléans : UMR7327
Abstract : Resolving the timing of initiation and propagation of continental accretion associated with increasing topography and exhumation is a genuinely challenging task using low-temperature thermochronology. We present an integrated thermo-mechanical and low-temperature thermochronology modelling study of tectonically-inverted hyperextended rift systems. Model low-temperature thermochronology data sets for apatite (U-Th)/He, apatite fission-track, zircon (U-Th)/He and zircon fission-track systems, which are four widely used thermochronometric systems in orogenic settings, are generated from fourteen locations across a model collisional, doubly-vergent orogen. Our approach allows prediction of specific, distinct low-temperature thermochronology signatures for each domain (proximal, necking, hyperextended, exhumed mantle) of the two rifted margins that, in turn, enable deciphering which parts of the margins are involved in orogenic wedge development. Our results show that a combination of zircon (U-Th)/He and apatite fission-track data allows diagnostic investigation of model orogen tectonics and offers the most valuable source of thermochronological information for the reconstruction of the crustal architecture of the model inverted rifted margins. The two thermochronometric systems have actually very close and wide closure windows, allowing to study orogenic processes over a larger temperature range, and therefore over a longer period of time. Comparison of model data for inverted rifted margins with model data for non-inverted, purely thermally-relaxed rifted margins enables assessing the actual contribution of tectonic inversion with respect to thermal relaxation. We apply this approach to one of the best-documented natural examples of inverted rift systems, the Pyrenees. Similarities between our thermochronometric modelling results and published low-temperature thermochronology data from the Pyrenees provide new insights into the evolution of the range from rifting to collision. In particular, they suggest that the core of the Pyrenean orogen, the Axial Zone, consists of the inverted lower plate necking and hyperextended domains while the Pyrenean retrowedge fold-and-thrust belt, the North Pyrenean Zone, represents the inverted upper plate distal rifted margin (exhumed mantle, hyperextended and necking domains). This is in good agreement with previous, independent reconstructions from literature, showing the power that our integrated study offers in identifying processes involved in orogenesis, especially early inversion, as well as in predicting which domains of rifted margins are accreted during mountain building.
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Sébastien Ternois, Frédéric Mouthereau, Anthony Jourdon. Decoding low-temperature thermochronology signals in mountain belts: modelling the role of rift thermal imprint into continental collision. Bulletin de la Société Géologique de France, Société géologique de France, 2021, 192, pp.38. ⟨10.1051/bsgf/2021028⟩. ⟨insu-03336267⟩

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