Year of Graduation
Level of Access
Open Access Thesis
Department or Program
Earth and Oceanographic Science
We present zircon and apatite (U-Th)/He (ZHe, closure temperature = 150-200ºC; AHe, closure temperature = 45-80ºC) results from two study regions in the Appalachians Mountains to investigate the timing, rates, and spatial trends of exhumation during Alleghanian orogenesis, Atlantic rifting, and post-rift passive margin conditions. Within West Virginia and Virginia, 10 ZHe dates along an across-orogen transect display an eastward younging trend, from ~425 million years (Ma) in the western Appalachian Plateau province, to ~250-300 Ma in the central Valley-Ridge fold-thrust belt, and 163 ± 29 Ma in the eastern Piedmont. Inverse thermal modeling of ZHe data using external geologic constraints indicates: (1) Pre-depositional cooling signatures within Pennsylvanian Appalachian Plateau rocks, suggesting provenance from recycled Taconic or Acadian basin strata, (2) Rapid Alleghanian (250-300 Ma) cooling in the Valley and Ridge province, indicating syn-orogenic uplift and exhumation, followed by a protracted period of stable syn-rift thermal conditions from ~250-150 Ma, and (3) Rapid rift-induced cooling in the Piedmont province, likely caused by rift-flank uplift and the post-rift lessening of the geothermal gradient. Within the Northern Appalachians of Vermont, four metamorphic samples yield averaged AHe dates of 100-120 Ma. Inverse thermal modeling indicates stable thermal conditions from 90 Ma to the present, limiting cooling driven by the recently recognized Northern Appalachian lithospheric thermal anomaly to < 20ºC. Modeling also indicates steady mid-Cretaceous (120-90 Ma) cooling (70 to 30ºC) coeval with passage over the Great Meteor Hotspot, although cooling rates are slower than would be expected during hotspot-induced thermal doming.