Living on the Edge? Clumped Isotope and Oxygen Isotope Record of Early Cascade Topography (Eocene Chumstick Basin, WA, USA)

Tuesday, 16 December 2014
Katharina Methner1, Andreas Mulch2,3, Jens Fiebig3, Ulrike Wacker3, Paul J Umhoefer4 and C Page Chamberlain5, (1)Biodiversity and Climate Research Centre, Frankfurt, United States, (2)Biodiversity and Climate Research Centre, Frankfurt, Germany, (3)Goethe University Frankfurt, Frankfurt, Germany, (4)Northern Arizona University, Flagstaff, AZ, United States, (5)Stanford University, Environmental Earth System Science, Stanford, CA, United States
The topographic evolution of the world’s major orogens exerts a strong impact on atmospheric circulation and precipitation patterns and is a key element in reconstructing the interactions among tectonics, climate, and Earth surface processes. Using carbonate stable and clumped isotope data together with low-temperature thermochronology information from the terrestrial Eocene Chumstick Basin (Central Washington; USA), today located to the East of the Washington Cascades, we investigate the E-W extent of the western North American plateau region and the evolution of Cascade topography.

Oxygen isotope measurements of Eocene (51 to 37 Ma) pedogenic carbonate concretions and calcic horizons yield low δ18Ocarbonate values of +9 to +13 ‰ (SMOW) despite the proximity of the Eocene Chumstick Basin to the Pacific moisture source and paleofloral data that indicate moderate elevations and montane rain forest conditions during a warm and rather wet, seasonal climate. This either suggests that 51-37 Ma ago Cascade-like topography characterized the western edge of the North American-Pacific plate margin to the West of the Chumstick Basin or that the δ18Ocarbonate data were variably reset or only formed during burial and diagenesis.

Clumped isotope (Δ47) thermometry of pedogenic carbonate and carbonate concretions (n=11 samples) indicates spatially variable burial temperatures of 80 to 120 °C that correlate with vitrinite reflectance data in these sediments. In concordance with changes in depositional environment the youngest (<40 Ma) Chumstick sediments experienced a lesser degree of post-depositional burial and heating (ca. 70 - 80 °C) compared to the older Chumstick series (80 – 120 °C).

Calculated δ18O values of the circulating fluids in the Chumstick basin sediments range from -6 ‰ (T ~100 °C at ca. 40-30 Ma) to -9 ‰ (T ~75 °C at ca. 25-15 Ma). These values suggest a low-altitude meteoric fluid source and as a consequence only moderate Cascade topography during the Eo-/Oligocene. The combined stable isotope and clumped isotope data, therefore support models of late Miocene Cascade uplift and provide insight into the topographic configuration of the western North American plate margin prior to the late Miocene.