A new detrital mica 40Ar/39Ar dating approach for provenance and exhumation of the Eastern Alps

L. Gemignani*, Xilin Sun, J. Braun, T. D. van Gerve, J. R. Wijbrans

*Corresponding author for this work

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Detrital thermochronology can be used as a tool to quantitatively constrain exhumation rates and its spatial variability from active mountain belts. Commonly used methods for this purpose assume a steady state relationship between tectonic uplift and erosion. However, this assumption does not account for the transitory response of a dynamic orogenic system to changes in the boundary conditions. We propose a different approach that uses the observed detrital age distributions as “markers” of the past exhumation and of the present-day erosion and mixing occurring in a river system. In this paper, we present new 40Ar/39Ar biotite and white mica age distributions for 19 modern river sands from the Eastern Alps north of the Periadriatic line. The results present three main clusters of ages at ~0.5–50, ~60–120, and ~250–350 Ma that record the main orogenic phases in this sector of the Alps. We have applied two numerical methods to the cooling ages to (a) linearly compute the spatial variability of the relative present-day erosion of a set of four detrital mineral samples from drainage basins along the Inn River and (b) quantify the rates of the cooling and erosion in the Tauern Window during Paleocene-Miocene time of the Alpine orogeny. Our results suggest a 0.34–0.84 mm/yr range of exhumation rates for the Tauern Window since the Miocene. Our estimates of exhumation rates of the western Tauern Window are higher than those for the eastern Tauern Window, which is consistent with the previous studies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1521-1537
Number of pages17
Issue number8
Early online date27 Jul 2017
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2017


  • Ar/Ar Method
  • Eastern Alps
  • exhumation
  • present-day erosion


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