Zircon (U-Th)/He thermochronology of Grand Canyon resolves 1250 Ma unroofing at the Great Unconformity and <20 Ma canyon carving

Olivia G. Thurston, William R. Guenthner, Karl E. Karlstrom, Jason W. Ricketts, Matthew T. Heizler, J. Michael Timmons

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Our study used zircon (U-Th)/He (ZHe) thermochronology to resolve cooling events of Precambrian basement below the Great Unconformity surface in the eastern Grand Canyon, United States. We combined new ZHe data with previous thermochronometric results to model the <250 °C thermal history of Precambrian basement over the past >1 Ga. Inverse models of ZHe date-effective uranium (eU) concentration, a relative measure of radiation damage that influences closure temperature, utilize He diffusion and damage annealing and suggest that the main phase of Precambrian cooling to <200 °C was between 1300 and 1250 Ma. This result agrees with mica and potassium feldspar 40Ar/39Ar thermochronology showing rapid post-1400 Ma cooling, and both are consistent with the 1255 Ma depositional age for the Un-kar Group. At the young end of the timescale, our data and models are also highly sensitive to late-stage reheating due to burial beneath ~3-4 km of Phanerozoic strata prior to ca. 60 Ma; models that best match observed date-eU trends show maximum temperatures of 140-160 °C, in agreement with apatite (U-Th)/He and fission-track data. Inverse models also support multi-stage Cenozoic cooling, with post-20 Ma cooling from ~80 to 20 °C reflecting partial carving of the eastern Grand Canyon, and late rapid cooling indicated by 3-7 Ma ZHe dates over a wide range of high eU. Our ZHe data resolve major basement exhumation below the Great Unconformity during the Mesoproterozoic (1300-1250 Ma), and “young” (20-0 Ma) carving of Grand Canyon, but show little sensitivity to Neoproterozoic and Cambrian basement unroofing components of the composite Great Unconformity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)222-226
Number of pages5
JournalGeology
Volume50
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - 2022

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geology

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