- © The Mineralogical Society Of America
Sedimentary basins, both modern and ancient, cover most of Earth’s land and subsea surface, and provide some of the best natural laboratories for studying and constraining geologic processes. The record of sedimentation, burial, erosion, and uplift provides a rich history that can be combined with various analytical and modeling techniques to evaluate: (1) processes that lead to basin formation; (2) deformation of regions related to plate tectonic effects; (3) timing and duration of hydrocarbon generation, migration, and trapping; (4) past and present effects of fluid flow in basin deposits; and (5) past climate change. Sedimentary basins have been classified by many workers (e.g., Bally and Snelson 1980; Dickinson 1993; Ingersoll and Busby 1995). Ingersoll and Busby (1995) generally classify the basins as forming in divergent settings, intraplate regions, convergent settings, transform settings, and hybrid settings. Many mechanisms have been proposed for the formation of the different styles of basins including, but not limited to, crustal thinning, sedimentary and tectonic loading, subcrustal loading, and mantle lithospheric thickening (e.g., Ingersoll and Busby 1995).
Thermochronometers have played an increasingly important role in the evaluation of both intra- and interbasin processes. Thermochronometers, especially the lower-temperature apatite fission-track and apatite (U-Th)/He dating, are now commonly combined with burial and thermal history analysis and modeling to provide important constraints on the timing and duration of heating/cooling events that can be used to evaluate hydrocarbon systems as well as structural and basin-forming mechanisms.
Past reviews of thermochronometer use in sedimentary basins are given by Naeser et al. (1989), Green et al. (1989a), Naeser (1993), and Giles and Indrelid (1998). Rather than review each study of thermochronometer use in sedimentary basins during the last decade, in this chapter some of the fundamental concepts used to evaluate the present-day thermal field for …