Differential movement across Byrd Glacier, Transantarctic Mountains, Antarctica as Indicated by (U-Th)/He thermochronology and geomorphology
The Byrd Glacier region of Antarctica is important for understanding the tectonic development and landscape evolution of the Transantarctic Mountains (TAM). This outlet glacier crossing the TAM marks a major discontinuity in the Neoproterozoic-early Paleozoic Ross orogen. The region has not been geologically mapped in detail, but previous studies have inferred a fault to exist beneath and parallel to the direction of flow of Byrd Glacier. Thermochronologic analysis has never been undertaken across Byrd Glacier, and little is known of the exhumation history of the region. The objectives of this study are to assess possible differential movement across the inferred Byrd Glacier fault, to measure the timing of exhumation, and to gain a better overall understanding of the structural architecture of the TAM. Apatites and zircons separated from rock samples collected from various locations north and south of Byrd Glacier were dated using single-crystal (U- Th)/He analysis. Similar cooling histories were revealed with comparable exhumation rates of 0.03 ± 0.003 and 0.04 ± 0.03 mm/yr north and south of Byrd Glacier from apatite data and somewhat similar rates of 0.06 ± 0.008 and 0.04 ± 0.01 mm/yr north and south of Byrd Glacier from zircon data. Age vs. elevation regressions indicate a vertical offset of 1379 ± 159 m and 4000 ± 3466 m from apatite and zircon data. To assess differential movement, the Kukri Peneplain (a regional unconformity) was utilized as a datum. On-site photographs, Landsat imagery, and Aster Global DEM data were combined to map Kukri Peneplain elevation points north and south of Byrd Glacier. The difference in elevation of the peneplain as projected across Byrd Glacier shows an offset of 1122 ± 4.7 m. This study suggests a model of relatively uniform exhumation followed by fault displacement that uplifted the south side of Byrd Glacier relative to the north side. Combining apatite and zircon (U-Th)/He analysis along with remote geomorphologic analysis has provided an understanding of the differential movement and exhumation history of crustal blocks in the Byrd Glacier region. The results complement thermochronologic and geomorphologic studies elsewhere within the TAM providing more information and a new approach.