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Dating topography of the Sierra Nevada, California, using apatite (U–Th)/He ages

House, Martha A. and Wernicke, Brian P. and Farley, Kenneth A. (1998) Dating topography of the Sierra Nevada, California, using apatite (U–Th)/He ages. Nature, 396 (6706). pp. 66-69. ISSN 0028-0836. doi:10.1038/23926.

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The upward motion of rock masses relative to the Earth's surface has been documented for most of the main mountain belts using thermochronological and petrological techniques. More fundamental to the physical processes of mountain building, however, is the motion of the Earth's surface itself, which remains elusive. Here we describe a technique for estimating the age of topographic relief by mapping the low-temperature thermal structure imparted by river incision using the ages of apatites determined from their uranium, thorium and helium contents. The technique exploits horizontal variations in temperature in the shallow crust that result from range-normal river drainages, because cooling beneath ancient river valleys occurs earlier than beneath intervening ridges. Our results from the Sierra Nevada, California, indicate that two of the modern transverse drainages, the Kings and the San Joaquin, had developed deep canyons by the Late Cretaceous period, suggesting that the high topography of the range is ~50–60 million years older than generally thought.

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Wernicke, Brian P.0000-0002-7659-8358
Farley, Kenneth A.0000-0002-7846-7546
Additional Information:© 1998 Macmillan Publishers Ltd. Received 10 December 1997; accepted 27 July 1998. This work is part of the Southern Sierra Nevada Continental Dynamics Project, supported by NSF's Continental Dynamics Program. We thank M. Ducea and J. Saleeby for permission to discuss their results before publication.
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Issue or Number:6706
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20130416-111249596
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Official Citation:House, M. A., B. P. Wernicke, et al. (1998). "Dating topography of the Sierra Nevada, California, using apatite (U-Th)/He ages." Nature 396(6706): 66-69.
Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:37969
Deposited By: Tony Diaz
Deposited On:17 Apr 2013 16:33
Last Modified:09 Nov 2021 23:32

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