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Exhumation of the Western Alpine collisional wedge: New thermochronological data

Abstract : Collisional shortening in the external Western Alps was first accommodated by internal (distributed) deformation in the External Crystalline Massifs (ECM) and then on frontal crustal ramps (localized deformation). However, the timing of transition between these two periods is still under-constrained, mainly because the available dataset is incomplete in the Western Alps. We here provide new zircon and apatite fission-track (ZFT and AFT) and zircon (U-Th-Sm)/He (ZHe) data that constrain the early stages of cooling hence exhumation of the external Alpine wedge, as well as new Raman Spectroscopy of Carbonaceous Material (RSCM) data from the Belledonne massif. ZFT ages mainly range between 15 and 20 Ma, ZHe ages between 5 and 12 Ma, AFT ages between 2 and 10 Ma. Those data are integrated within HeFTy (inverse and forward) thermal models along with literature data to constrain the late Oligocene-Miocene cooling history and suggest that exhumation of the Belledonne and the Pelvoux massifs may have started as early as ca. 27 Ma. This early exhumation was rather slow (~ 50 m.Myrs−1 ± 2 m.Myrs−1) and may date the transition between the distributed and the localized mode of shortening, i.e., the initiation of the crustal ramps below these massifs. Further north, in the Mont Blanc and Aiguilles Rouges massifs, exhumation was active around 18 Ma, and started possibly earlier, around 20–25 Ma. From this time on (18 Ma), exhumation rates increased in all external massifs (~ 500 ± 40 m.Myrs−1, both North and South). This age most likely corresponds to the end of the transition period between distributed and localized shortening with localisation along the frontal crustal ramps and the rapid associated exhumation, then cooling of the hangingwall (even considering that cooling may start a few Myrs later than exhumation if isoterms are advected). This timing notably corresponds to a transition between the two molasse mega-sequences in the foreland basin (Lower Marine/Freshwater Molasse and Upper Marine/Freshwater Molasse).
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J.B. Girault, N. Bellahsen, M. Bernet, R. Pik, N. Loget, et al.. Exhumation of the Western Alpine collisional wedge: New thermochronological data. Tectonophysics, Elsevier, 2021, pp.229155. ⟨10.1016/j.tecto.2021.229155⟩. ⟨insu-03454092⟩



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