Asymmetric exhumation across the Pyrenean orogen: Implications for the tectonic evolution of a collisional orogen

P. G. Fitzgerald, J. A. Muñoz, P. J. Coney, S. L. Baldwin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

198 Scopus citations


The Pyrenees are a collisional mountain belt formed by convergence between the Afro-Iberian and European plates. Apatite fission track thermochronology from three vertical profiles along the ECORS seismic line constrain the exhumation history of the Pyrenean orogen and hence tectonic models for its formation. In the Eocene there is relatively uniform exhumation across the Pyrenees, but significantly more exhumation occurs on the southern flank of the axial zone in the Oligocene. The variation in exhumation patterns is controlled by a change in how convergence is accommodated within the Pyrenean double-wedge. Accommodation of thrusting on relict extensional features that leads to inversion dominated thrust stacking resulted in relatively slow exhumation in the Eocene. However, subsequent crustal wedging and internal deformation in the upper crust under the stacked duplex of antiformal nappes resulted in extremely rapid exhumation on the southern flank in the Oligocene. The Maladeta profile in the southern axial zone records extremely rapid Early Oligocene exhumation followed by dramatic slowing or cessation of exhumation in the middle Oligocene and the formation of an apatite partial annealing zone (PAZ). This PAZ has subsequently been exhumed 2-3 km since the Middle Miocene, supporting the observations of Coney et al. [J. Geol. Soc. London 153 (1996) 9-16] that the southern flank of the range was buried by ≤2-3 km of syntectonic conglomerates in the Oligocene and subsequently re-excavated from Late Miocene to Recent. The present-day topographic form of the Pyrenees is largely a relict of topography that formed in the Eocene and the Oligocene. Comparison with paleoclimatic records indicates that the Eocene-Oligocene exhumation patterns are controlled by tectonic forces rather than resulting from an orographic effect due to uplift of the Pyrenees.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)157-170
Number of pages14
JournalEarth and Planetary Science Letters
Issue number3
StatePublished - Nov 30 1999
Externally publishedYes


  • Exhumation
  • Paleoclimatology
  • Pyrenees
  • Tectonics
  • Thermochronology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geophysics
  • Geochemistry and Petrology
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Space and Planetary Science


Dive into the research topics of 'Asymmetric exhumation across the Pyrenean orogen: Implications for the tectonic evolution of a collisional orogen'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this