Disentangling Topographic and Climatic Change during the Late Cretaceous and Cenozoic in the Western US Cordillera

Tuesday, 16 December 2014
Kathryn E Snell, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, CA, United States, John M Eiler, Caltech, Pasadena, CA, United States, Brian P Wernicke, CALTECH, Pasadena, CA, United States, Daniel J Peppe, Baylor University, Waco, TX, United States, David L. Fox, Department of Earth Sciences, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN, United States, Anne C Fetrow, University of Puget Sound, Tacoma, WA, United States and Benjamin H Passey, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD, United States
A diverse suite of tectonic and climatic drivers influenced the topographic evolution of the western USA Cordillera. Despite years of study, considerable uncertainty remains about fundamentals of this evolution, such as the timing and magnitude of maximum average elevations for the different physiographic provinces; the drivers and topographic effects of different episodes of extension during the Cenozoic; and the relative relief of peaks and intermontane basins within the Cordillera at different times and in different places. Numerous tectonic models have been developed to explain the evolution of the Cordillera, and understanding these details is key for distinguishing between these different models. In addition, the topographic changes in the Cordillera have important implications for regional and local climate of the western US at different times in the past, and may drive important differences in local climatic responses to global climate changes through the Cenozoic. The majority of the tools that currently exist for quantitatively reconstructing changes in topography through time and space rely on paleoclimate proxy data. Thus it is also important to be able to disentangle climatic change from elevation change in terrestrial paleoclimate records.

To address some of these outstanding questions, we have generated and compiled paleotemperature estimates from the Late Cretaceous through the Miocene of the western US. In this presentation, we will focus on the latest installment of the project, which utilizes Oligocene paleotemperature records from central Utah and South Dakota and Miocene-Holocene paleotemperature records from Kansas. The data are dominantly composed of mean annual temperature estimates from leaf margin analysis and summer temperature estimates from carbonate clumped isotope thermometry. We will discuss how these data compare to temperature data from the Paleogene from the western US, what general trends exist within all the data and how these compare to global climate trends, and finally what the data suggest for topographic changes through time.