Interpretation of low‐temperature thermochronometer ages from tilted normal fault blocks




Low‐temperature thermochronometry is widely used to measure the timing and rate of slip on normal faults. Rates are often derived from suites of footwall thermochronometer samples, but regression of age vs. structural depth fails to account for the trajectories of samples during fault slip. We demonstrate that in rotating fault blocks, regression of age‐depth data is susceptible to significant errors (>10%) in the identification of the initiation and rate of faulting. Advection of heat and topographic growth influence the thermal histories of exhumed particles, but for a range of geologically reasonable fault geometries and rates these effects produce Apatite (U‐Th)/He ages comparable to those derived from rotation through fixed isotherms. We apply the fixed‐isotherm model to published data from the Pine Forest Range and the East Range, Nevada, by incorporating field and thermochronologic constraints into a Markov chain Monte Carlo model. Modeled parameters for the Pine Forest Range are described by narrow ranges of geologically reasonable values. Compared to slip rates of 0.3‐0.8 km/Myr and an inititation of faulting ca. 11‐12 Ma derived from visual inspection, the model predicts an average slip rate of ~1.1 km/Myr and an onset of faulting ca. 9‐10 Ma. For the East Range fault block the model suggests faulting begain ~17 Ma with an extension rate of ~3 km/Myr and slowed to an extension rate of ~0.5 km/Myr at ~14 Ma. The absence of a preserved partial retention zone in the East Range sample set limits how well the model can predict fault block geometry.

Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Interpretation of low‐temperature thermochronometer ages from tilted normal fault blocks
Series title Tectonics
DOI 10.1029/2018TC005207
Edition Online First
Year Published 2018
Language English
Publisher AGU
Contributing office(s) Geology and Environmental Change Science Center, Geology, Geophysics, and Geochemistry Science Center