Stable isotope paleoaltimetry of Eocene core complexes in the north American Cordillera

A. Mulch, C. Teyssier, M. A. Cosca, C. P. Chamberlain

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The hydrogen isotope composition of Eocene muscovite in mylonitic quartzite from the Kettle and Shuswap metamorphic core complexes (Washington and British Columbia) permits estimates of paleoaltimetry of the North American Cordillera at the onset of post-collisional lithospheric extension. Coupled oxygen, hydrogen, and 40Ar/39Ar isotope data indicate that meteoric water penetrated to significant depths during normal faulting along the Columbia River Detachment bounding both Kettle and Shuswap metamorphic core complexes. Synkinematic muscovite attains δDmuscovite values low as -135‰ and -157‰, respectively, consiste with δDwater values of -115 ± 5‰ and -135 ± 5‰. In context with stable isotope data from Eocene sedimentary basins of continental North America, these data constrain the isotopic composition of precipitation from which paleoelevation estimates can be made. Stable isotope paleoaltimetry indicates that during detachment formation (49-47 Ma), orogen-parallel variations in topography existed, and mean elevations decreased from ≥4000 m at the latitude of the Shuswap core complex to ≥3000 m in the Kettle core complex. In addition, these data indicate a net decrease in mean surface elevation by ∼1000 m since the Eocene. Our results for the Kettle core complex are consistent with paleoelevation estimates based on fossil floral physiognomy in the Eocene Republic basin (Washington), indicating that high elevations characterized not only the frontal escarpment near the crustal-scale detachment but continued into the Okanogan highlands further west. Collectively, the stable isotope, geochronological, and paleofloral data support tectonic models of high Eocene surface elevations contemporaneous with magmatism and lithospheric extension.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numberTC4001
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 2007


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