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We estimate here a geothermal gradient of only 17 ?? 5??C km-1 for the tilted Grayback fault block in southeastern Arizona when extension began ???25 Ma. This gradient is lower than preextension gradients estimated elsewhere in the Basin and Range, is only about 50% of typical gradients in the Basin and Range today, and needs to be accounted for in models of continental extension. The Grayback block exposes a 12-km-thick crustal section of Proterozoic and Cretaceous granitoids, which was tilted 90?? during extension between 25 and 15 Ma. Zircon fission-track ages decrease structurally downward (westward) across the block and were all within a zone of partial track annealing prior to tilting and quenching. The zircon age gradient suggests that the 220??-240??C isotherm migrated downward 5-6 km during Paleogene erosion and regional cooling. Apatite fission-track ages decrease westward from ???83 Ma in the structurally highest crystalline rocks to ???24 Ma at ???6-km paleodepth and then to ???15 Ma another 6 km farther west. Track-length analysis confirms that apatites above the break in slope in age at ???5.7-km paleodepth resided in a zone of partial annealing prior to tilting, and deeper apatites record rapid cooling upon tilting and unroofing beginning ???25 Ma. At that time the 110 ?? 10??C isotherm determined by the depth at which tracks in apatite were fully erased was at a basement paleodepth of ???5.7 km, and the 220 ?? 30??C isotherm as estimated from zircon data resided at a pretilting basement depth of ???12.15 km. From consistent values of paleogeothermal gradient for two depth intervals we estimate the pretilt gradient was 17 ?? 5??C km-1. From 25 to 15 Ma the rotating Grayback block cooled rapidly as higher, westward moving blocks unroofed it tectonically at a rate of ???1 km m.y.-1.
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Thermal and unroofing history of a thick, tilted Basin-and-Range crustal section in the Tortilla Mountains, Arizona