Geological Magazine



ORIGINAL ARTICLE

Evidence for post-early Eocene tectonic activity in southeastern Ireland


M. J. M. CUNNINGHAM a1c1, A. L. DENSMORE a2, P. A. ALLEN a2, W. E. A. PHILLIPS a1, S. D. BENNETT a1, K. GALLAGHER a3 and A. CARTER a4
a1 Department of Geology, Trinity College, Dublin 2, Ireland
a2 Institute of Geology, Department of Earth Sciences, ETH Zentrum, CH-8092 Zürich, Switzerland
a3 T. H. Huxley School of Environment, Earth Science and Engineering, Imperial College of Science, Technology and Medicine, London SW7 2BP, UK
a4 Research School of Geological and Geophysical Sciences, Birkbeck College & University College London, Gower Street, London WC1E 6BT, UK

Abstract

The role played by Cenozoic deformation in denudation and landscape development in Ireland has historically been difficult to assess because of the lack of widespread pre-glacial Cenozoic deposits onshore. Here we combine analysis of apatite fission-track data and geomorphic observations to place constraints on the timing, kinematics and magnitude of onshore deformation in southeastern Ireland. Relationships between apatite fission-track central age and elevation for samples from the Wicklow and Blackstairs Mountains and Tullow Lowland suggest that these rocks record an exhumed apatite partial annealing zone, which after cooling was dismembered by differential vertical displacements of up to several hundred metres. We use inverted models of sample thermal history to show that samples across the region experienced very similar thermal histories up to and including a cooling event in late Paleocene or early Eocene time. This effectively rules out strongly spatially heterogeneous denudation, and implies that differential rock uplift occurred in post-early Eocene time. The central age–elevation relationships define at least three spatial domains with internally consistent apatite fission-track data, separated by known faults or topographic escarpments. Geomorphic analysis of these structures shows that patterns of catchment incision and sinuosity, as well as the presence of antecedent drainage, are best explained by differential vertical displacements at or near the domain boundaries. The kinematics and magnitudes of these displacements are consistent with those implied by the apatite fission-track results, and are compatible with other examples of known Cenozoic deformation from Ireland and the adjacent continental margin.

(Received April 3 2002)
(Accepted October 3 2002)


Key Words: Cenozoic; geomorphology; fission-track; Ireland; denudation.

Correspondence:
c1 Author for correspondence: mcunningham@rocketmail.com


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