Skip to main content

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

  • Paul F. Green (a1)

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.

Hide All
Anderson, J. G. C. & Owen, T. R. 1980. The Structure of the British Isles. Oxford: Pergamon Press. 243 pp.
Dewey, J. F. 1982. Plate tectonics and the evolution of the British Isles. Journal of the Geological Society of London 139, 371412.
Duddy, I. R., Green, P. F., Gleadow, A. J. W. & Laslett, G. M. 1985. Thermal annealing of fission tracks in apatite: 1 – a qualitative description. (In prep.)
Evans, A. L., Fitch, F. J. & Miller, J. A. 1973. Potassium–argon age determinations on some British Tertiary igneous rocks. Journal of the Geological Society of London 129, 419–43.
Fitch, F. J. & Miller, J. A. 1967. The age of the Whin Sill. Geological Journal 5, 233–50.
Fleischer, R. L. & Price, P. B. 1964. Techniques for geological dating of minerals by chemical etching of fission fragment tracks. Geochemica Cosmochimica Acta 28, 1705–14.
Galbraith, R. F. 1981. On statistical models of fission track counts. Mathematical Geology 13, 471–8.
Gleadow, A. J. W. 1978 a. Anisotropic and variable track etching characteristics in natural sphenes. Nuclear Tracks 2, 105–17.
Gleadow, A. J. W. 1978 b. Fission-track evidence for the evolution of rifted continental margins. In Short Papers of the 4th International Conference of Geochronology, Cosmochronology and Isotope Geology (ed. Zartman, R. E.), US Geological Survey Open File Report 78101, 146–8.
Gleadow, A. J. W. & Brooks, C. K. 1979. Fission track dating, thermal histories and tectonics of igneous intrusions in East Greenland. Contributions to Mineralogy and Petrology 71, 4560.
Gleadow, A. J. W. & Duddy, I. R. 1981. A natural long-term annealing experiment for apatite. Nuclear Tracks 5, 169–74.
Gleadow, A. J. W. & Duddy, I. R. 1984. Fission track dating and thermal history analysis of apatites from wells in the northwestern Canning Basin. In The Canning Basin, W.A.: Proceedings of Geological Society of Australia Petroleum Exploration Society of Australia Symposium, Perth (ed. Purcell, P. G.) 1984.
Gleadow, A. J. W., Duddy, I. R. & Lovering, J. F. 1983. Fission track analysis: a new tool for the evaluation of thermal histories and hydrocarbon potential. APEA Journal 23, 93102.
Gleadow, A. J. W., Duddy, I. R., Green, P. F., Laslett, G. M. & Lovering, J. F. 1985. Confined track lengths in apatites – a diagnostic tool for thermal history analysis. Submitted to Earth and Planetary Science Letters.
Gleadow, A. J. W., Hurford, A. J. & Quaife, R. D. 1976. Fission track dating of zircon: Improved etching techniques. Earth and Planetary Science Letters 33, 273–6.
Gleadow, A. J. W., Leigh-Jones, P., Duddy, I. R. & Lovering, J. F. 1982. An automated microscope stage system for fission track dating and particle track mapping. Abstracts, Workshop on Fission-track Dating, Nikko, Japan, 1982 22–3.
Glennie, K. W., Mudd, G. C. & Nagtegaal, P. J. C. 1978. Depositional environment and diagenesis of Permian Rotliegendes sandstones in Leman Bank and Sole Pit areas of the U.K. southern North Sea. Journal of the Geological Society of London 135, 2334.
Green, P. F. 1985. Comparison of zeta calibration baselines for fission track dating of apatite, zircon and sphene. Chemical Geology (Isotope Geoscience Section) 58, 122.
Green, P. F., Duddy, I. R., Gleadow, A. J. W. & Lovering, J. F. 1985 a. Apatite fission track analysis as a paleotemperature indicator for hydrocarbon exploration. To appear in S.E.P.M. special publication.
Green, P. F., Duddy, I. R., Gleadow, A. J. W., Tingate, P. R. & Laslett, G. M. 1985 b. Fission track annealing in apatite: track length measurements and the form of the Arrhenius plot. Nuclear Tracks 10, 323–8.
Hancock, J. M. 1984. Cretaceous. In Introduction to the Petroleum Geology of the North Sea (ed. Glennie, K. W.), pp. 135–50. London: Blackwell.
Harrison, T. M. & Mcdougall, I. 1980. Investigations of an intrusive contact, northwest Nelson, New Zealand-1. Thermal, chronological and isotopic constraints. Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta 44, 19852004.
Hurford, A. J. 1977 a. A preliminary fission track dating survey of Caledonian ‘newer and last granites’ from the Highlands of Scotland. Scottish Journal of Geology 13, 271–84.
Hurford, A. J. 1977 b. Fission track dates from two Galloway granites, Scotland. Geological Magazine 114, 299304.
Hurford, A. J. & Green, P. F. 82. A user's guide to fission track dating calibration. Earth and Planetary Science Letters 59, 343–54.
Ineson, P. R. & Mitchell, J. G. 1974. K–Ar isotope age determinations from some Lake District mineral localities. Geological Magazine 111, 521–7.
Kent, P. E. 1978. Subsidence and uplift in East Yorkshire and Lincolnshire: A double inversion. Proceedings of the Yorkshire Geological Society 42, 505–24.
Kohn, B. P. & Eyal, M. 1981. History of uplift of the crystalline basement of Sinai and its relation to opening of the Red Sea as revealed by fission track dating of apatites. Earth and Planetary Science Letters 52, 129–41.
Laslett, G. M., Gleadow, A. J. W. & Duddy, I. R. 1984. The relationship between fission track lengths and track density in apatite. Nuclear Tracks 9, 2938.
Laslett, G. M., Kendall, W. S., Gleadow, A. J. W. & Duddy, I. R. 1982. Bias in the measurement of fission track length distributions. Nuclear Tracks 6, 7985.
Lovell, J. P. B. 1977. The British Isles through geological time: a northward drift. London: Allen & Unwin, 40 pp.
Lovell, J. P. B. 1984. Cenozoic. In Introduction to the Petroleum Geology of the North Sea (ed. Glennie, K. W.), pp. 151–69. London: Blackwell.
Lutz, M., Kaasschietner, J. P. H. & van Wijke, D. H. 1975. Geological factors controlling Rotliegend gas accumulations in the mid-European Basin. Proceedings of the 9th World Petroleum Congress 2, 93103.
Marie, J. P. P. 1975. Rotliegendes Stratigraphy and Diagenesis. In Petroleum and the Continental Shelf of North-west Europe, Vol. 1: Geology (ed. Woodland, A. W.), pp. 205–10. Barking, England: Applied Science Publishers.
Mitchell, A. H. G. 1972. Potassium–argon ages from the Cheviot Hills, northern England. Geological Magazine 109, 421–6.
Mitchell, A. H. G. 1984. The British Caledonides: interpretations from Cenozoic analogues. Geological Magazine 121, 3546.
Moorbath, S. 1962. Lead isotope abundance studies on mineral occurrences in the British Isles and their geological significance. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London 254, 295300.
Moseley, F. (ed.) 1978. The Geology of the Lake District. Proceedings of the Yorkshire Geological Society, 284 pp.
Mussett, A. E. 1984. Time and duration of Tertiary igneous activity of Rhum and adjacent areas. Scottish Journal of Geology 20, 273–9.
Naeser, C. W. 1984. Fission track dating applied to mineral exploration, Abstract 4th International Fission Track Dating Workshop, Troy (New York), August 1984.
Naeser, C. W., Izett, G. A. & Obradovich, J. D. 1980. Fission-track and K–Ar ages of natural glasses. U.S. Geological Survey Bulletin, 1489.
Nelson, E. P. 1982. Post-tectonic uplift of the Cordillera Darwin orogenic core complex: evidence from fission track geochronology and closing temperature-time relationships. Journal of the Geological Society of London 139, 755–61.
Pidgeon, R. T. & Aftalion, M. 1978. Cogenetic and inherited zircon U–Pb systems in granites: Palaeozoic granites of Scotland and England. In Crustal Evolution in Northwest Britain and Adjacent Regions (eds. Bowes, D. R. Leake, B. E.), pp. 183220. Liverpool: Seel House Press.
Rose, W. C. C. & Dunham, K. C. 1977. Geology and hematite deposits of South Cumbria. Economic Memoir of the Geological Survey of Great Britain, Sheet 58, part 48.
Rundle, C. C. 1979. Ordovician intrusions in the English Lake District. Journal of the Geological Society of London 136, 2938.
Rundle, C. C. 1981. The significance of isotopic dates from the English Lake District for the Ordovician–Silurian time-scale. Journal of the Geological Society of London 138, 569–72.
Shepherd, T. J., Beckinsale, R. D., Rundle, C. C. & Durham, J. 1976. Genesis of Carrock Fell tungsten deposits, Cumbria: fluid inclusion and isotopic study. Bulletin of the Institution of Mining and Metallurgy 85, 6374.
Smith, M. J. & Leigh-Jones, P. 1985. An automated microscope scanning stage system for fission track dating. To appear in Nuclear Tracks.
Taylor, B. J., Burgess, I. C., Land, D. H., Mills, D. A. C., Smith, D. B. & Warren, P. T. 1971. British Regional Geology – Northern England. London: Institute of Geological Sciences, 125 pp.
Wadge, A. J., Gale, N. H., Beckinsale, R. D. & Rundle, C. C. 1978. A Rb–Sr isochron for the Shap Granite. Proceedings of the Yorkshire Geological Society 42, 297305.
Wagner, G. A. & Reimer, G. M. 1972. Fission track tectonics: the tectonic interpretation of fission track apatite ages. Earth and Planetary Science Letters 14, 263–8.
Zeigler, P. A. 1981. Evolution of sedimentary basins in north-west Europe. In Petroleum Geology of the Continental Shelf of Northwest Europe (ed. Illing, L. V. Hobson, G. D.), pp. 339. London: Heyden.
Zeitler, P. K., Tahirkheli, R. A. K., Naeser, C. W. & Johnson, N. M. 1982. Unroofing history of a suture zone in the Himalaya of Pakistan, by means of fission-track annealing ages. Earth and Planetary Science Letters 57, 227–40.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Geological Magazine
  • ISSN: 0016-7568
  • EISSN: 1469-5081
  • URL: /core/journals/geological-magazine
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed