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Pliocene Accelerations in Erosion throughout Europe: Implications for Sediment Dispersal and Basin Inversion

Sinclair, Hugh 1; Vernon, Antoine 1; Stanton, Sigrun 1; Underhill, John 1
1 University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, United Kingdom.

Low temperature thermochronology (apatite fission track) from across the Alpine mountain chain has demonstrated accelerated erosion at approximately 5 Ma (Vernon et al., 2008). As a consequence of this mass removal from the mountain chain, the North Alpine Foreland Basin was inverted and eroded (Cederbom et al., 2004). A review of additional thermochronometric data from across Europe demonstrates that this acceleration in erosion was a continent-wide phenomenon, and hence has to be interpreted in terms of a climatic impact. Oceanographic records demonstrate that this was a time of increased sea-surface temperatures in the Atlantic ocean, possibly linked to closure of the Isthmus of Panama. These anomalous sea-surface temperatures resulted in an approximately 30% increase in mean precipitation and at least a doubling of major storm events. Therefore, it is possible to demonstrate a tight linkage between warmer ocean currents, increasingly stormy climates, and accelerated erosion across Europe.

The implications for hydrocarbon prospectivity is tied to the acceleration in coarse sediment flux to distal depocenters, and associated increases in burial rates, and the inversion of nearby foreland basins. We are now using detrital low temperature thermochronology from onshore deposits of the Rhone delta, combined with offshore seismic data to demonstrate the direct stratigraphic implications of a doubling in sediment flux rates to the Rhone delta from Pliocene times onwards. These approaches demonstrate the importance of considering controls on regional erosion and sediment supply to understanding petroleum systems.


AAPG Search and Discovery Article #90090©2009 AAPG Annual Convention and Exhibition, Denver, Colorado, June 7-10, 2009