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Volume 101 Supplement 1

Orogenic processes in the Alpine collision zone

Mapping of the post-collisional cooling history of the Eastern Alps


We present a database of geochronological data documenting the post-collisional cooling history of the Eastern Alps. This data is presented as (a) georeferenced isochrone maps based on Rb/Sr, K/Ar (biotite) and fission track (apatite, zircon) dating portraying cooling from upper greenschist/amphibolite facies metamorphism (500–600 °C) to 110 °C, and (b) as temperature maps documenting key times (25, 20, 15, 10 Ma) in the cooling history of the Eastern Alps. These cooling maps facilitate detecting of cooling patterns and cooling rates which give insight into the underlying processes governing rock exhumation and cooling on a regional scale.

The compilation of available cooling-age data shows that the bulk of the Austroalpine units already cooled below 230 °C before the Paleocene. The onset of cooling of the Tauern Window (TW) was in the Oligocene-Early Miocene and was confined to the Penninic units, while in the Middle- to Late Miocene the surrounding Austroalpine units cooled together with the TW towards near surface conditions.

High cooling rates (50 °C/Ma) within the TW are recorded for the temperature interval of 375–230 °C and occurred from Early Miocene in the east to Middle Miocene in the west. Fast cooling post-dates rapid, isothermal exhumation of the TW but was coeval with the climax of lateral extrusion tectonics. The cooling maps also portray the diachronous character of cooling within the TW (earlier in the east by ca. 5 Ma), which is recognized within all isotope systems considered in this study.

Cooling in the western TW was controlled by activity along the Brenner normal fault as shown by gradually decreasing ages towards the Brenner Line. Cooling ages also decrease towards the E–W striking structural axis of the TW, indicating a thermal dome geometry. Both cooling trends and the timing of the highest cooling rates reveal a strong interplay between E–W extension and N–S orientated shortening during exhumation of the TW.

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Correspondence to Stefan W. Luth.

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Editorial Handling: Nikolaus Froitzheim & Stefan Bucher

Manuscript received February 4, 2008. Revision accepted October 27, 2008

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Luth, S.W., Willingshofer, E. Mapping of the post-collisional cooling history of the Eastern Alps. Swiss J. Geosci. 101 (Suppl 1), 207–223 (2008).

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