Dating the Cenozoic incision history of the Tennessee and Shenandoah Rivers with cosmogenic nuclides and 40Ar/39Ar in manganese oxides
thesisposted on 2020-12-15, 22:26 authored by William E Odom IIIWilliam E Odom III
The post-orogenic history of the Appalachian Mountains, particularly the persistence of rough topography and the degree of river incision throughout the region, has been a longstanding focus of geomorphology studies. Numerous models have been developed to explain the evolution of this landscape, variously invoking episodic or continuous processes of uplift and erosion to drive the generation or reduction of topographic relief. Recently, late Cenozoic uplift has found favor as a mechanism for rejuvenating the topography of the southern and central Appalachians. This hypothesis has drawn on longitudinal river profiles, seismic tomography, and offshore sediment records as evidence of Neogene uplift.
Radiometric dating of surficial deposits provides a means to directly test models of episodic and continuous landscape evolution, as well as the Neogene uplift hypothesis. The research described in this thesis dates surficial sediments (river terraces, alluvial fans, and a filled sinkhole) and supergene manganese oxides using 26Al/10Be burial dating and 40Ar/39Ar geochronology, respectively. Our cosmogenic 26Al/10Be dating provides detailed histories of aggradation and incision along the Shenandoah and Tennessee Rivers since the early Pliocene. 40Ar/39Ar dating of manganese oxides permits estimates of surface preservation and denudation in the Shenandoah Valley and nearby watersheds throughout the Cenozoic.
The results of our work in the Shenandoah Valley, Tennessee River basin, and intervening areas indicate that the Appalachians experienced no significant pulse of uplift during the Cenozoic. Long-term preservation of supergene manganese oxides dates as far back as the Eocene, demonstrating minimal denudation and discontinuous formation that lend evidence to episodic landscape evolution models. Cosmogenic26Al/10Be burial ages along the Shenandoah and Tennessee Rivers reveal Pliocene aggradation, with enhanced deposition in the Shenandoah Valley during the mid-Piacenzian Warm Period. Both rivers likely experienced incision during the Pleistocene, likely due to climatic fluctuations. These results demonstrate that while the Appalachian landscape has remained largely unchanged for tens of millions of years, rapid Pleistocene changes in base level recently triggered significant incision of major drainages.
DATING THE CENOZOIC INCISION HISTORY OF THE TENNESSEE AND SHENANDOAH RIVERS WITH COSMOGENIC NUCLIDES AND 40Ar/39Ar IN MANGANESE OXIDES
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