Patterns of denudation through time in the San Bernardino Mountains, California: Implications for early-stage orogenesis

S. A. Binnie, W. M. Phillips, M. A. Summerfield, L. K. Fifield, J. A. Spotila

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Basin-averaged cosmogenic 10Be concentrations, apatite (U–Th)/He thermochronometry and incision into a dated palaeosurface constrain spatial and temporal variations in the rates of denudation experienced during the early-stages of orogenesis in the San Bernardino Mountains, California. Cosmogenic 10Be analysis measures denudation over intermediate (∼ 102–104 years) time scales and records rates which decrease from a maximum of 2700 ± 500 mm ka− 1 in the south to a minimum of 52 ± 5 mm ka− 1 in northern catchments. Corresponding rates from (U–Th)/He and incision into a dated palaeosurface measure long-term (∼ 106 years) denudation rates which decrease from between 1200 ± 400 mm ka− 1 in the south to a minimum of 30 ± 20 mm ka− 1 in the north. The temporal consistency observed in the broad-scale patterns of denudation rates probably results from the persistent imprint of the initial crustal architecture and drainage network. These have maintained an influence on slope distributions, and are thus fundamental factors controlling the gross patterns of denudation throughout the early stages of orogenesis. Where variations between the denudation rates measured over different time scales are apparent the intermediate-term rates are found to be consistently greater than the long-term, with the increase being more pronounced around the fault bounded peripheries of crustal blocks relative to quiescent block interiors. This provides empirical support for a model of mountain building whereby topographic development is dictated by the headward retreat of drainage systems that propagate away from zones of displacement. Our findings indicate that recent localised increases in denudation rates in young fault block orogens may be explained by a progressive denudational response to prior tectonic uplift, rather than a consequence of climatic change.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)62-72
Number of pages11
JournalEarth and Planetary Science Letters
Volume276
Issue number1-2
Early online date18 Oct 2008
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 30 Nov 2008

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • denudation rates
  • topographic evolution
  • cosmogenic nuclides
  • orogenesis
  • San Bernardino Mountains

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