Crustal Exhumation of Plutonic and Metamorphic Rocks: Constraints from Fission-Track Thermochronology

  • Suzanne L. Baldwin
  • Paul G. Fitzgerald
  • Marco G. Malusà
Part of the Springer Textbooks in Earth Sciences, Geography and Environment book series (STEGE)


The thermal evolution of plutonic and metamorphic rocks in the upper crust may be revealed using fission-track (FT) analyses and other low-temperature thermochronologic methods. The segment of pressure–temperature–time–deformation (P-T-t-D) rock paths potentially constrained by FT data corresponds to the lower greenschist facies, prehnite–pumpellyite, and zeolite facies of metamorphic rocks and also includes regions where diagenetic alteration occurs. When plutonic and metamorphic rocks are exhumed, thermal perturbations caused by fluid alteration, and crystallisation below relevant closure/annealing temperatures at relatively shallow crustal depths, may preclude a simplistic interpretation of thermochronologic ages in terms of monotonic cooling. However, FT ages and track-length measurements provide kinetic data that allow interpretation of T-t paths, even in cases where assumptions based on bulk closure temperatures are violated. We show that geologically well-constrained sampling strategies, and application of multiple thermochronologic methods on cogenetic minerals from plutonic and metamorphic rocks, may provide the most promising means to document the timing, rates, and mechanisms of crustal processes. Case studies are presented for: (1) (ultra)high-pressure (U)HP metamorphic terranes (e.g., Papua New Guinea, Western Alps, Western Gneiss Region, Dabie–Sulu), (2) an extensional orogen (Transantarctic Mountains), (3) a compressional orogen (Pyrenees), and (4) a transpressional plate boundary zone (Alpine fault zone, New Zealand).



SLB and PGF acknowledge support from the U.S. National Science Foundation. SLB and PGF thank J. Pettinga and the Erskine Program at the University of Canterbury. SLB thanks the Thonis family endowment. Thorough reviews by A. Blythe, M. Danišík, J. Gonzalez, T. Warfel, M. Jimenez, J.M. Brigham, N. Perez Consuegra, and R. Glas are greatly appreciated.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Suzanne L. Baldwin
    • 1
  • Paul G. Fitzgerald
    • 1
  • Marco G. Malusà
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Earth SciencesSyracuse UniversitySyracuseUSA
  2. 2.Department of Earth and Environmental SciencesUniversity of Milano-BicoccaMilanItaly

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