The Chinese Altai Mountains in western China are bound by Cenozoic transpressional strike-slip faults, many of which show Quaternary activity. To better understand how Mesozoic–Cenozoic deformation has affected the history of exhumation and uplift of the Chinese Altai Mountains, we collected Paleozoic granitoid samples for apatite fission track and apatite U-Th-Sm/He thermochronology. Central apatite fission track ages for N = 6 samples range from 68 to 104 Ma, whereas apatite U-Th-Sm/He ages range from 56 to 272 Ma for N = 23 samples (n = 80 individual analyses) across four transects in the western Chinese Altai. Our results indicate fast cooling during the late Early Cretaceous followed by slow cooling since. Thermal modeling results suggests < 2 km exhumation has occurred over most of the Chinese Altai since the Paleocene. If significant late Cenozoic surface uplift occurred in the Altai Mountains, as has been proposed, it must have been associated with minimal erosional exhumation. We suggest that the relief of the Chinese Altai largely developed during the late Mesozoic and denudation since has been minimal because of semi-arid climate conditions.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Earth-Surface Processes