The post-Variscan thermal and denudational history of Ireland
Published:January 01, 2002
Philip A. Allen, Stuart D. Bennett, Michael J. M. Cunningham, Andy Carter, Kerry Gallagher, Eric Lazzaretti, Joseph Galewsky, Alex L. Densmore, W. E. Adrian Phillips, David Naylor, Cristina Solla Hach, 2002. "The post-Variscan thermal and denudational history of Ireland", Exhumation of the North Atlantic Margin: Timing, Mechanisms and Implications for Petroleum Exploration, A. G. Doré, J. A. Cartwright, M. S. Stoker, J. P. Turner, N. White
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The thermal and denudational history of Ireland is evaluated using an extensive new apatite fission-track (AFT) dataset derived from surface samples. Modelled thermal histories are used to construct maps of denudation for a number of time slices from Triassic time to 10 Ma using a time-dependent palaeogeotherm. The maps illustrate the spatial variability of denudation and subsidence within each time slice. The patterns of denudation are complex, showing considerable variability at the length scale of 10l-102km, with especially high denudation rates found over known igneous centres such as the Mournes of County Down. Based on the onshore AFT data alone, there is no definitive signature of an Irish Sea Dome extending significantly across Ireland in Early Tertiary time. The cumulative amount of denudation during Tertiary time varies depending on the AFT annealing model used, but is generally in the region between 1 and 2 km and without clear spatial trends. High amounts of denudation have been mapped over the Tertiary intrusions in County Down, reflecting their unroofing since emplacement in Paleocene time. The cumulative denudation from Triassic time to 10 Ma shows relatively low amounts of denudation (<2 km) in the Irish Midlands and the extreme NE of the island, consistent with the observation that Mesozoic-Tertiary sediments and igneous products are preserved in the Ulster Basin. The western flank of Ireland and the region between Dublin and County Down show high cumulative amounts of denudation (< 4km), the latter being consistent with the high amounts of denudation interpreted for the Irish Sea region. This denudation pattern explains in part the outcrop of Precambrian and Lower Palaeozoic rocks in these areas. The spatial integration of the denudation over the entire landmass gives the average denudation rate and the sediment discharge from Ireland as a function of time. Average denudation rates are moderately high in Triassic time, falling to low values in Cretaceous time, and increasing substantially in Tertiary time. However, the total volumetric discharge of sediment in Tertiary time is an order of magnitude smaller than the preserved solid volume of Tertiary sediment in the basins offshore western Ireland.
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Exhumation of the North Atlantic Margin: Timing, Mechanisms and Implications for Petroleum Exploration
Northwest Europe has undergone repeated episodes of exhumation (the exposure of formerly buried rocks) due to such factors as post-orogenic unroofing, rift-shoulder uplift, hotspot activity, compressive tectonics, eustatic sea-level change, glaciation and isostatic readjustment. The main observational legacy of this exhumation around the North Atlantic is preserved in the comparatively young (Mesozoic and Cenozoic) geological record of this region. Despite a rapid increase in the understanding of the exhumation of this area, there are still many unknowns: the relative intensity of the various phases and their geographical variation; mechanisms of uplift; primary causes of exhumation. Tied to these problems is the larger-scale question of whether the circum-North Atlantic is unique or whether its behaviour is typical for passive margins.
There have been several attempts in recent years to bring together researchers to address these questions, but these have often focused on one particular geographical area or one particular exhumation phase. Before an integrated story can emerge, disciplines that have traditionally remained apart need to come together: geomorphology and offshore seismic interpretation; Palaeogene and Neogene studies; Scandinavian and British-Irish research schools. This volume represents a first step in this direction by providing an inter-disciplinary set of studies over a wide latitudinal range of the NW European margin.
The studies presented here are based on a variety of techniques that have been employed to address the main concerns of North Atlantic exhumation history, including timing, mechanisms and the sedimentary response of the continental margin. The 25 papers presented in this volume have been arranged in four sections to reflect the highly varied approach to this subject and the commercial implications. Part 1 is concerned with exhumation mechanisms, focusing primarily on the Iceland Plume. Parts 2 and 3 present ongoing research on the continental margin record offshore Scandinavia, Britain, Ireland and the Faroes. The papers in these two parts illustrate the communication that is now occurring between the two regional research schools and the acknowledgement of a multiphase Cenozoic denudation chronology for both areas. Part 4 contains five papers describing the significant changes to the hydrocarbon systems that occur in exhumed basins, detailing the implications for hydrocarbon-bearing basins.
Exhumation of the North Atlantic Margin: Timing, Mechanisms and Implications for Petroleum Exploration is the most up-to-date and complete volume integrating all aspects of the Mesozoic-Cenozoic exhumation of North Atlantic borderlands. Itwill be of interest to those within the oil industry, geomorphologists and other workers with an interest in NW European regional geology.