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On the thermo-tectonic evolution of Northern England: evidence from fission track analysis

  • Paul F. Green (a1)
Abstract

The limited amount of fission track data previously available in Northern Britain has shown unexplained Cretaceous ages in the Southern Uplands and Lake District. Apatite fission track analysis has been applied to 23 samples from Caledonian intrusive bodies, to further investigate these ages. Fission track data of sphene has been carried out on seven samples and zircon in one sample.

Apatite fission track ages vary from a maximum of 278 ± 12 Ma in the Cheviot Granite, down to ages of ∼ 60 Ma in the Carrock Fell region, with intermediate ages of ∼ 140 Ma in the Eskdale Granite and ∼ 80 Ma in the Shap Granite. This variation in fission track age is accompanied by changes in the distribution of confined fission track lengths. Samples with the youngest ages (∼ 60 Ma) have long, narrow distributions (mean length > 14 μm; standard deviation ∼ 1 μm) typical of samples which have had all pre-existing tracks erased by elevated temperatures, and subsequently cooled rapidly so that all tracks now observed have formed at low temperatures. As ages increased from 60 Ma, a component of shorter tracks becomes more dominant, representing tracks which have been shortened at elevated temperatures. Thus ages greater than 60 Ma are ‘apparent ages’, representing a partial overprint of a pre-existing track record, while the ∼ 60 Ma ages record a total resetting at this time.

The heating responsible for the observed fission track annealing may be due to residence at temperatures in the range 70–125 °C over many tens of Ma, or to a short lived heat pulse perhaps associated with the Tertiary igneous province of the northwest. In either case, uplift and erosion on a scale of kilometres at ∼ 60 Ma ago is necessary to produce the observed pattern of fission track parameters. This uplift may be related in some way to basin inversions, also on a kilometre scale, known to have taken place at around the Late Cretaceous/Early Tertiary to the southeast (Cleveland, Sole Pit and Broad Fourteens Basins). No previous evidence of such uplift in Northern England has been reported, and the study reported here highlights the unique potential of apatite fission track analysis for the detection of mild thermo-tectonic events, often in areas where no other evidence exists.

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