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Evidence for post-early Eocene tectonic activity in southeastern Ireland

  • M. J. M. CUNNINGHAM (a1), A. L. DENSMORE (a2), P. A. ALLEN (a2), W. E. A. PHILLIPS (a1), S. D. BENNETT (a1), K. GALLAGHER (a3) and A. CARTER (a4)...
Abstract

The role played by Cenozoic deformation in denudation and landscape development in Ireland has historically been difficult to assess because of the lack of widespread pre-glacial Cenozoic deposits onshore. Here we combine analysis of apatite fission-track data and geomorphic observations to place constraints on the timing, kinematics and magnitude of onshore deformation in southeastern Ireland. Relationships between apatite fission-track central age and elevation for samples from the Wicklow and Blackstairs Mountains and Tullow Lowland suggest that these rocks record an exhumed apatite partial annealing zone, which after cooling was dismembered by differential vertical displacements of up to several hundred metres. We use inverted models of sample thermal history to show that samples across the region experienced very similar thermal histories up to and including a cooling event in late Paleocene or early Eocene time. This effectively rules out strongly spatially heterogeneous denudation, and implies that differential rock uplift occurred in post-early Eocene time. The central age–elevation relationships define at least three spatial domains with internally consistent apatite fission-track data, separated by known faults or topographic escarpments. Geomorphic analysis of these structures shows that patterns of catchment incision and sinuosity, as well as the presence of antecedent drainage, are best explained by differential vertical displacements at or near the domain boundaries. The kinematics and magnitudes of these displacements are consistent with those implied by the apatite fission-track results, and are compatible with other examples of known Cenozoic deformation from Ireland and the adjacent continental margin.

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Corresponding author
Author for correspondence: mcunningham@rocketmail.com
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Geological Magazine
  • ISSN: 0016-7568
  • EISSN: 1469-5081
  • URL: /core/journals/geological-magazine
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