Tectonic control on the late stage exhumation of the Aar Massif (Switzerland): Constraints from apatite fission track and (U-Th)/He data
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We examine the hypothesis that Pliocene exhumation of the external massifs in the central Alps is controlled by climatic change. New thermochronological data from the western Gastern-Aar massif are used to investigate the timing, extent, and reasons for Neogene exhumation. Our data reveal that exhumation was constant with 0.5 km/Ma over the last 10 Ma in the north. In the southern part, exhumation was of the same order until ∼3.5 Ma but then increased gradually toward the south to values of up to 1.2 km/Ma, resulting in overall northward tilting of the western Aar massif. We explain this accelerated exhumation in the south after ∼3.5 Ma mainly by tectonic denudation in the footwall of the Rhône-Simplon fault and discuss changes in deep crustal configuration, which may have triggered south directed normal faulting. We propose that the Rhône river was structurally trapped by the Rhône-Simplon normal fault zone, which additionally enhanced erosion in the southern section of the Aar massif. Climatic forcing may have an impact in the very late stage of exhumation due to Alpine glaciation in the late Pliocene.
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