The Badwater turtleback, Copper Canyon turtleback, and Mormon Point turtleback are three anomalously smooth, ∼2-km-high basement structures in the Black Mountains of Death Valley, California. Their structural evolution is linked to the Cenozoic tectonic history of the region. To explore their evolution, we apply (U-Th)/He, Ar/Ar, and U-Pb analyses, with multi-domain diffusion modeling to 10 samples from the Badwater turtleback. The cooling history of the Badwater turtleback is used as a proxy for its exhumation history as it uplifted from warmer depths. We find slow (<2 °C/m.y.) cooling from ca. 32 to 6 Ma, followed by rapid (120–140 °C/m.y.) cooling from ca. 6 to 4.5 Ma, and finally moderate (30–120 °C/m.y.) cooling occurred from ca. 4.5 Ma until the present. When these data are added to previously published cooling paths of the Copper Canyon turtleback and Mormon Point turtleback, a northwest cooling pattern is broadly evident, consistent with a top-to-NW removal of the hanging wall along a detachment fault. We propose a six-phase tectonic history. Post-orogenic collapse and erosion dominated from ca. 32 to 16 Ma. At 167#8211;14 Ma, a detachment fault formed with a breakaway south and east of the Black Mountains, with normal faults in the hanging wall. Moderate extension continued from 14 to 8 Ma causing exhumation of the turtlebacks through the brittle-ductile transition. Dextral transtension at 7–6 Ma produced a pull-apart basin across the Black Mountains with rapid extension. The locus of deformation transferred to the Panamint and Owens Valley fault systems from 4.5 to 3.5 Ma, slowing extension in the Black Mountains until present.
Structural evolution of central Death Valley, California, using new thermochronometry of the Badwater turtleback
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Travis Sizemore, Matthew M. Wielicki, Ibrahim Çemen, Daniel Stockli, Matthew Heizler, Delores Robinson; Structural evolution of central Death Valley, California, using new thermochronometry of the Badwater turtleback. Lithosphere doi: https://doi.org/10.1130/L1044.1
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