A two phase escarpment evolution of the Red Sea margin of southwestern Saudi Arabia. Insights from low-temperature apatite thermochronology - Archive ouverte HAL Access content directly
Journal Articles (Review Article) Earth and Planetary Science Letters Year : 2023

A two phase escarpment evolution of the Red Sea margin of southwestern Saudi Arabia. Insights from low-temperature apatite thermochronology

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Abstract

Rifting of the Red Sea resulted in the formation of one of the highest escarpments on our planet: the Great Escarpment of southwestern Saudi Arabia. Published low-temperature geochronology ages are around the Paleogene-Neogene transition, but geomorphic features like the height, the steepness and the preservation of the escarpment may indicate a younger aspect to the exhumation history. Here we use apatite fission track (AFT) and (U-Th-Sm)/He (AHe) cooling ages in combination with a geomorphic analysis of the region from Jeddah to Jizan to test this idea. Pooled AFT ages range from to Ma (1σ). The base of the AFT partial annealing zone prior to rock uplift is at ∼200 m elevation in most of the studied area, but track length data show that the amount of exhumation is insufficient to affect all coastal plain samples. Consistent with earlier estimates in the literature, the total amount of rock uplift is estimated to be ∼4 km. Single grain AHe ages range from to Ma (1σ) and do not have a clear trend with distance from the escarpment. Overall, the distribution of data appears to indicate widespread downwearing of the elevated topography around the rift flank. In contrast, geomorphic analysis that indicates escarpment retreat including a flexural uplift response. We suggest that the conflict between geomorphological and geochronological data can be resolved by invoking a two-stage erosion model. The first stage involved dome-shaped rift flank uplift since initiation of the Afar plume, downwearing of this topography and cooling recorded by the AFT ages. The second stage involved the massive erosion that excavated the present day Saudi escarpment and reset the AHe ages. We suggest that this second stage is related to the formation of oceanic lithosphere since 13 Ma in the Red Sea, associated downwarping of the margin and flexural updoming of the eastern rift flank. The consequential orographic precipitation initiated asymmetric erosion and formation of a retreating escarpment. This model is consistent with the large age difference between Miocene AFT and Pliocene AHe ages and the geomorphic metrics.
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insu-03944384 , version 1 (18-01-2023)

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Syed Ali Turab, Kurt Stüwe, Finlay Stuart, Nathan Cogne, David Chew, et al.. A two phase escarpment evolution of the Red Sea margin of southwestern Saudi Arabia. Insights from low-temperature apatite thermochronology. Earth and Planetary Science Letters, 2023, 603, pp.117990. ⟨10.1016/j.epsl.2023.117990⟩. ⟨insu-03944384⟩
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