Denudational history along a transect across the Drakensberg Escarpment of southern Africa derived from apatite fission track thermochronology

Brown, R., Summerfield, M.A. and Gleadow, A.J.W. (2002) Denudational history along a transect across the Drakensberg Escarpment of southern Africa derived from apatite fission track thermochronology. Journal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth, 107, (doi:10.1029/2001JB000745)

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Publisher's URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1029/2001JB000745

Abstract

The denudational history of a ∼500 km long transect across the Drakensberg Escarpment on the high-elevation passive margin of SE Africa is quantified on the basis of thermal history modeling of apatite fission track data for 15 deep borehole samples, supplemented by an additional 10 outcrop samples. A minimum of 4.5 km of denudation since formation of the margin ∼130 Myr ago is estimated for the coastal zone, with a marked Early Cretaceous episode of accelerated denudation broadly coincident with continental breakup. Samples from the Swartberg borehole (SW 1/67) located ∼30 km seaward of the present position of the Drakensberg Escarpment indicate a total depth of denudation of 3.1 ± 1.2 km since ∼91 Myr, with a phase of accelerated denudation of 2.1 ± 0.9 km at a mean rate of 95 ± 43 m/Myr between ∼91 and 69 Myr. Samples from the Ladybrand borehole (LA 1/68) west of the Lesotho Highlands indicate 1.7 ± 0.5 km of denudation since ∼78 Myr, with a phase of accelerated denudation at 82 ± 43 m/Myr from ∼78 to 64 Myr. Average denudation rates declined to about 10 m/Myr during much of the Tertiary. Although the apatite fission track data do not provide any direct constraints on the denudational history of the Lesotho Highlands, interpolation between the two boreholes, constrained by geological evidence and extrapolated in situ-produced cosmogenic 36Cl-derived denudation rate estimates, suggests a pattern of denudation compatible with numerical modeling studies of escarpment evolution involving rapid river incision seaward of a preexisting inland drainage divide. These patterns of denudation are incompatible with constant retreat of the Drakensberg Escarpment from an initial position near the present coast. We suggest that the Drakensberg Escarpment formed by rapid post-breakup river incision seaward of a preexisting drainage divide located just east of the present escarpment location and became pinned at this divide with subsequent retreat rates of only 100–200 m/Myr.

Item Type:Articles
Status:Published
Refereed:Yes
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Brown, Professor Roderick
Authors: Brown, R., Summerfield, M.A., and Gleadow, A.J.W.
College/School:College of Science and Engineering > School of Geographical and Earth Sciences > Geography
Journal Name:Journal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth
ISSN:0148-0227

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