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Article

Abstract

Existing paleogeographic reconstructions indicate that the northern Antarctic Peninsula was central to several Mesozoic and Cenozoic tectonic events that have implications for ocean circulation and continental margin evolution. To evaluate the exhumational record of these processes, we collected new samples and measured fission track and (U‐Th)/He cooling ages of apatite and zircon from 13 Jurassic and Cretaceous granitoids in western Graham Land between the northern tip of the peninsula and the Antarctic Circle. Apatite He data reveal distinct ages and systematic age patterns north and south of Anvers Island, near the midpoint of the study area: To the south, apatite He ages range from 16 to 8 Ma and young northward, whereas to the north they range between 65 and 24 Ma (with one exception at 11 Ma) and young southward. Thermal histories inferred from the ages and closure temperatures of multiple thermochronometers in single samples indicate distinct histories for northern and southern Graham Land. Northern sites reveal a Late Cretaceous pulse of rapid cooling (>7°C/Myr) followed by very slow cooling (∼1°C/Myr) to the Recent, whereas southern sites record either a pulse of rapid mid‐Miocene cooling (∼8°C/Myr) or steady and moderate cooling (∼3°C/Myr) from the Late Cretaceous to the Recent. We interpret the Late Cretaceous rapid cooling in the northern part of the study area as a possible manifestation of terrane accretion associated with the Palmer Land event. We interpret the systematic spatial trends in apatite He ages and contrasting thermal histories along the peninsula as recording progressive Late Cenozoic northward opening of a slab window south of Anvers Island. This is consistent with a time transgressive pulse of ∼2–3 km of rock uplift and exhumation in the upper plate following ridge‐trench collision, cessation of subduction, and opening of the slab window, presumably caused by increased asthenospheric upwelling beneath the overriding plate.

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