Post break-up tectonic inversion across the southwestern cape of South Africa: new insights from apatite and zircon fission track thermochronometry

Wildman, M., Brown, R. , Watkins, R., Carter, A., Gleadow, A. and Summerfield, M. (2015) Post break-up tectonic inversion across the southwestern cape of South Africa: new insights from apatite and zircon fission track thermochronometry. Tectonophysics, 654, pp. 30-55. (doi:10.1016/j.tecto.2015.04.012)

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The south-west African margin is regarded as an example of a passive continental margin formed by continental rifting following a phase of lithospheric extension and thinning. Recent attention focused on this margin has included theoretical modelling studies of rift processes, plate kinematic studies of the opening geometry and timing, and empirical studies focused on documenting the crustal structure and offshore sedimentary record. Here, we examine the onshore geomorphic and tectonic response to rifting and breakup, with a specific focus on the SW Cape of South Africa. We present 75 new apatite and 8 new zircon fission track analyses from outcrop samples and onshore borehole profiles along the western margin of South Africa. The data are used to derive robust thermal histories that record two discrete phases of accelerated erosional cooling during the Early Cretaceous (150-130 Ma) and Late Cretaceous (100-80 Ma), respectively. Both periods of enhanced erosion are regional in extent, involved km-scale erosion, and extend well inland of the current escarpment zone, albeit with spatially variable intensity and style. The Late Cretaceous episode is also expressed more locally by tectonic reactivation and inversion of major faults causing km-scale differential displacement and erosion. The new AFT data do not exclude the possibility of modest surface uplift occurring during the Cenozoic, but they restrict the depth of regional Cenozoic erosion on the western margin to less than c. 1 km. The inferred pattern and chronology of erosion onshore is consistent with the key features and sediment accumulation patterns within the offshore Orange and Bredasdorp basins. It is suggested that the Late Cretaceous event was triggered by a combination of regional dynamic uplift augmented along the western margin and in the SW Cape by local tectonic forces arising from dextral displacement of the Falkland Plateau along the Falkland-Agulhas Fracture Zone.

Item Type:Articles
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Brown, Professor Roderick
Authors: Wildman, M., Brown, R., Watkins, R., Carter, A., Gleadow, A., and Summerfield, M.
College/School:College of Science and Engineering > School of Geographical and Earth Sciences
Journal Name:Tectonophysics
ISSN (Online):1879-3266
Copyright Holders:Copyright © 2015 The Authors
First Published:First published in Tectonophysics 654:30-56
Publisher Policy:Reproduced under a Creative Commons License

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Project CodeAward NoProject NamePrincipal InvestigatorFunder's NameFunder RefLead Dept
525621Resolving the age of the first-order topography of AfricaRoderick BrownNatural Environment Research Council (NERC)NE/H008276/1SCHOOL OF GEOGRAPHICAL & EARTH SCIENCES