Investigating the effect of high-angle normal faulting on unroofing histories of the Santa Catalina-Rincon and Harcuvar metamorphic core complexes, using apatite fission-track and apatite and zircon (U-Th)/He thermochronometry
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The formation and evolution of metamorphic core complexes has been widely studied using low temperature thermochronometry methods. Interpretation of these data has historically occurred through the lens of the traditional slip rate method which provides a singular rate that unroofing occurs at temporally as well as spatially, and assumes unroofing is dominated by motion on a single master detachment fault. Recently, several new studies have utilized (U-Th)/He ages with a higher spatial density and greater nominal precision to suggest a late-stage rapid increase in the rate of unroofing. This analysis is based on the traditional slip rate method interpretation of broad regions of core complexes that display little to no change in age along the slip direction. An alternative interpretation is presented that instead of a change in slip rate, there may have been a change in the style of unroofing, specifically caused by the transfer of displacement from low-angle detachment faulting to high-angle normal faults. Apatite fission-track (AFT), and apatite and zircon (U-Th)/He (AHe and ZHe) analyses were applied to samples from the Santa Catalina-Rincon (n=8 AHe, and n=9 ZHe) and Harcuvar (n=12 AFT, n=16 AHe, and n=17 ZHe) metamorphic core complexes in an attempt to resolve the possible thermal effects of high-angle normal faulting on core complex formation. Samples from the Harcuvars were taken along a transect parallel to slip direction with some samples specifically targeting high-angle normal fault locations. The AFT data collected here has the advantage of improved analysis and modeling techniques. Also, more than an order of magnitude more data were collected and analyzed than any previous studies within the Harcuvars. The AFT ages include a trend from ~22 Ma in the southwest to ~14 Ma in the northeast and provide a traditional slip rate of 7.1 mm/yr, similar to previous work. However, two major high-angle, detachment-parallel normal faults were identified, and hanging-wall samples are ~3 m.y. older than the footwalls, indicating high-angle normal faults rearranged the surface expression of the distribution of thermochronometer ages to some extent. AHe ages range from 8.1 Ma to 18.4 Ma but in general decrease with increasing distance in the slip direction. ZHe ages generally range between 13.6 Ma and 17.4 Ma. A series of unexpectedly young AFT ages (10-11 Ma), given by three complete samples and distinct population modes in others, suggest that some parts of the range underwent a later-stage unroofing event possibly caused by high-angle faulting. Confined fission-track length distributions were measured for Harcuvar samples and modeled using the modeling software HeFTy to infer thermal histories and calculate local cooling rates. These imply a component of steady cooling in some parts of the range, evidence of a different departure from a single-detachment dominated model.