In this paper, a new approach is applied to test a proposed scenario for the tectonic evolution of the Western Carpathian fold-and-thrust belt–foreland system. A N-S balanced section was constructed across the fold-and-thrust belt, from the Polish foreland to the Slovakia hinterland domain. Its sequential restoration allows us to delineate the tectonic evolution and to predict the cooling history along the section. In addition, the response of low-temperature thermochronometers (apatite fission-track and apatite [U-Th]/He) to the changes in the fold-and-thrust belt geometry produced by fault activity and topography evolution are tested. The effective integration of structural and thermochronometric methods provides, for the first time, a high-resolution thermo-kinematic model of the Western Carpathians from the Early Cretaceous onset of shortening to the present day. The interplay between thick- and thin-skinned thrusting exerts a discernible effect on the distribution of cooling ages along the profile. Our analysis unravels cooling of the Outer Carpathians since ca. 22 Ma. The combination of thrust-related hanging-wall uplift and erosion is interpreted as the dominant exhumation mechanism for the outer portion of the orogen. Younger cooling ages (13–4 Ma) obtained for the Inner Carpathian domain are mainly associated with a later, localized uplift, partly controlled by extensional faulting. These results, which help unravel the response of low-temperature thermochronometers to the sequence of tectonic events and topographic changes, allow us to constrain the tectonic scenario that best honors all available data.
- Received 18 December 2014.
- Revision received 13 March 2015.
- Accepted 31 March 2015.
- © 2015 Geological Society of America