The Great Unconformity of the Rocky Mountain region (western North America), where Precambrian crystalline basement is nonconformably overlain by Phanerozoic strata, represents the removal of as much as 1.5 b.y. of rock record during 10-km-scale basement exhumation. We evaluate the timing of exhumation of basement rocks at five locations by combining geologic data with multiple thermochronometers. 40Ar/39Ar K-feldspar multi-diffusion domain (MDD) modeling indicates regional multi-stage basement cooling from 275 to 150 °C occurred at 1250–1100 Ma and/or 1000–700 Ma. Zircon (U-Th)/He (ZHe) dates from the Rocky Mountains range from 20 to 864 Ma, and independent forward modeling of ZHe data is also most consistent with multi-stage cooling. ZHe inverse models at five locations, combined with K-feldspar MDD and sample-specific geochronologic and/or thermochronologic constraints, document multiple pulses of basement cooling from 250 °C to surface temperatures with a major regional basement exhumation event 1300–900 Ma, limited cooling in some samples during the 770–570 Ma breakup of Rodinia and/or the 717–635 Ma snowball Earth, and ca. 300 Ma Ancestral Rocky Mountains cooling. These data argue for a tectonic control on basement exhumation leading up to formation of the Precambrian-Cambrian Great Unconformity and document the formation of composite erosional surfaces developed by faulting and differential uplift.
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