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Influence of climate change and uplift on Colorado Plateau paleotemperatures from carbonate clumped isotope thermometry

Huntington, K. W. and Wernicke, B. P. and Eiler, J. M. (2010) Influence of climate change and uplift on Colorado Plateau paleotemperatures from carbonate clumped isotope thermometry. Tectonics, 29 . Art. No. TC3005 . ISSN 0278-7407.

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The elevation history of Earth's surface is key to understanding the geodynamic processes responsible for the rise of plateaus. We investigate the timing of Colorado Plateau uplift by estimating depositional temperatures of Tertiary lake sediments that blanket the plateau interior and adjacent lowlands using carbonate clumped isotope paleothermometry (a measure of the temperature-dependent enrichment of ^(13)C-^(18)O bonds in carbonates). Comparison of modern and ancient samples deposited near sea level provides an opportunity to quantify the influence of climate and therefore assess the contribution of changes in elevation to the variations of surface temperature on the plateau. Analysis of modern lake calcite from 350 to 3300 m elevation in the southwestern United States reveals a lake water carbonate temperature (LCT) lapse rate of 4.2 ± 0.6°C/km. Analysis of Miocene deposits from 88 to 1900 m elevation in the Colorado River drainage suggests that the ancient LCT lapse rate was 4.1 ± 0.7°C/km, and temperatures were 7.7 ± 2.0°C warmer at any one elevation than predicted by the modern trend. The inferred cooling is plausible in light of Pliocene temperature estimates off the coast of California, and the consistency of lapse rates through time supports the interpretation that there has been little or no elevation change for any of the samples since 6 Ma. Together with previous paleorelief estimates from apatite (U-Th)/He data from the Grand Canyon, our results suggest most or all of the plateau's lithospheric buoyancy was acquired ∼80–60 Ma and do not support explanations that ascribe most plateau uplift to Oligocene or younger disposal of either the Farallon or North American mantle lithosphere.

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Wernicke, B. P.0000-0002-7659-8358
Additional Information:© 2010 American Geophysical Union. Received 21 January 2009; revised 17 August 2009; accepted 28 December 2009; published 25 May 2010. This research was supported by National Science Foundation grants EAR‐0610115 and EAR‐0810824 and the Division of Geological and Planetary Sciences at the California Institute of Technology. This manuscript benefited from discussions with Gerard Roe and Tapio Schneider and was improved by thoughtful reviews by Brian Currie, Andreas Mulch, and Paul Kapp. We thank Jon Patchett, Dick Young, and Lesleigh Anderson, who provided many of the samples for which we report data, and Geoff Huntington for assistance in the field.
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Caltech Division of Geological and Planetary SciencesUNSPECIFIED
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Official Citation:Huntington, K. W., B. P. Wernicke, and J. M. Eiler (2010), Influence of climate change and uplift on Colorado Plateau paleotemperatures from carbonate clumped isotope thermometry, Tectonics, 29, TC3005, doi:10.1029/2009TC002449.
Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:18812
Deposited By: Tony Diaz
Deposited On:03 Aug 2010 20:46
Last Modified:03 Oct 2019 01:48

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