News Release

New articles for Geosphere posted online in May

Peer-Reviewed Publication

Geological Society of America

Boulder, Colo., USA: GSA's dynamic online journal, Geosphere, posts articles online regularly. Locations and topics studied this month include the Moine thrust zone in northwestern Scotland; the Eastern California shear zone; implementation of "OpenTopography"; the finite evolution of "mole tracks"; the southern central Andes; the work of International Ocean Discovery Program (IODP) Expedition 351; and the Fairweather fault, Alaska, USA. You can find these articles at

Detrital-zircon analyses, provenance, and late Paleozoic sediment dispersal in the context of tectonic evolution of the Ouachita orogen
William A. Thomas; George E. Gehrels; Kurt E. Sundell; Mariah C. Romero

Abstract: New analyses for U-Pb ages and εHft values, along with previously published U-Pb ages, from Mississippian-Permian sandstones in synorogenic clastic wedges of the Ouachita foreland and nearby intracratonic basins support new interpretations of provenance and sediment dispersal along the southern Midcontinent of North America. Recently published U-Pb and Hf data from the Marathon foreland confirm a provenance in the accreted Coahuila terrane, which has distinctive Amazonia/Gondwana characteristics. Data from Pennsylvanian-Permian sandstones in the Fort Worth basin, along the southern arm of the Ouachita thrust belt, are nearly identical to those from the Marathon foreland, strongly indicating the same or a similar provenance. The accreted Sabine terrane, which is documented by geophysical data, is in close proximity to the Coahuila terrane, suggesting the two are parts of an originally larger Gondwanan terrane. The available data suggest that the Sabine terrane is a Gondwanan terrane that was the provenance of the detritus in the Fort Worth basin. Detrital-zircon data from Permian sandstones in the intracratonic Anadarko basin are very similar to those from the Fort Worth basin and Marathon foreland, indicating sediment dispersal from the Coahuila and/or Sabine terranes within the Ouachita orogen cratonward from the immediate forelands onto the southern craton. Similar, previously published data from the Permian basin suggest widespread distribution from the Ouachita orogen. In contrast to the other basins along the Ouachita-Marathon foreland, the Mississippian-Pennsylvanian sandstones in the Arkoma basin contain a more diverse distribution of detrital-zircon ages, indicating mixed dispersal pathways of sediment from multiple provenances. Some of the Arkoma sandstones have U-Pb age dis¬tributions like those of the Fort Worth and Marathon forelands. In contrast, other sandstones, especially those with paleocurrent and paleogeographic indicators of southward progradation of deposi¬tional systems onto the northern distal shelf of the Arkoma basin, have U-Pb age distributions and εHft values like those of the "Appalachian signature." The combined data suggest a mixture of detritus from the proximal Sabine terrane/Ouachita orogenic belt with detritus routed through the Appalachian basin via the southern Illinois basin to the distal Arkoma basin. The Arkoma basin evidently marks the southwestern extent of Appalachian-derived detritus along the Ouachita-Marathon foreland and the transition southwestward to overfilled basins that spread detritus onto the southern craton from the Ouachita-Marathon orogen, including accreted Gondwanan terranes.

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Structural, petrological, and tectonic constraints on the Loch Borralan and Loch Ailsh alkaline intrusions, Moine thrust zone, northwestern Scotland
Robert Fox; Michael P. Searle

Abstract: During the Caledonian orogeny, the Moine thrust zone in northwestern Scotland (UK) emplaced Neoproterozoic Moine Supergroup rocks, metamorphosed during the Ordovician (Grampian) and Silurian (Scandian) orogenic periods, westward over the Laurentian passive margin in the northern highlands of Scotland. The Laurentian margin comprises Archean-Paleoproterozoic granulite and amphibolite facies basement (Scourian and Laxfordian complexes, Lewisian gneiss), Proterozoic sedimentary rocks (Stoer and Torridon Groups), and Cambrian-Ordovician passive-margin sediments. Four major thrusts, the Moine, Ben More, Glencoul, and Sole thrusts, are well exposed in the Assynt window. Two highly alkaline syenite intrusions crop out within the Moine thrust zone in the southern Assynt window. The Loch Ailsh and Loch Borralan intrusions range from ultramafic melanite-biotite pyroxenite and pseudoleucite-bearing biotite nepheline syenite (borolanite) to alkali-feldspar-bearing and quartz-bearing syenites. Within the thrust zone, syenites intrude up to the Ordovician Durness Group limestones and dolomites, forming a high-temperature contact metamorphic aureole with diopside-forsterite-phlogopite-brucite marbles exposed at Ledbeg quarry. Controversy remains as to whether the Loch Ailsh and Loch Borralan syenites were intruded prior to thrusting or intruded syn- or post-thrusting. Borolanites contain large white leucite crystals pseudomorphed by alkali feldspar, muscovite, and nepheline (pseudoleucite) that have been flattened and elongated during ductile shearing. The minerals pseudomorphing leucites show signs of ductile deformation indicating that high-temperature (~500 °C) deformation acted upon pseudomorphed leucite crystals that had previously undergone subsolidus breakdown. New detailed field mapping and structural and petrological observations are used to constrain the geological evolution of both the Loch Ailsh and the Loch Borralan intrusions and the chronology of the Moine thrust zone. The data supports the interpretation that both syenite bodies were intruded immediately prior to thrusting along the Moine, Ben More, and Borralan thrusts.

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Tectonostratigraphic record of late Miocene-early Pliocene transtensional faulting in the Eastern California shear zone, southwestern USA
Rebecca J. Dorsey; Brennan O'Connell; Kevin K. Gardner; Mindy B. Homan; Scott E.K. Bennett ...

Abstract: The Eastern California shear zone (ECSZ; southwestern USA) accommodates ~20%-25% of Pacific-North America relative plate motion east of the San Andreas fault, yet little is known about its early tectonic evolution. This paper presents a detailed stratigraphic and structural analysis of the uppermost Miocene to lower Pliocene Bouse Formation in the southern Blythe Basin, lower Colorado River valley, where gently dipping and faulted strata provide a record of deformation in the paleo-ECSZ. In the western Trigo Mountains, splaying strands of the Lost Trigo fault zone include a west-dipping normal fault that cuts the Bouse Formation and a steeply NE-dipping oblique dextral-normal fault where an anomalously thick (~140 m) section of Bouse Formation siliciclastic deposits filled a local fault-controlled depocenter. Systematic basinward thickening and stratal wedge geometries in the western Trigo and southeastern Palo Verde Mountains, on opposite sides of the Colorado River valley, record basinward tilting during deposition of the Bouse Formation. We conclude that the southern Blythe Basin formed as a broad transtensional sag basin in a diffuse releasing stepover between the dextral Laguna fault system in the south and the Cibola and Big Maria fault zones in the north. A palinspastic reconstruction at 5 Ma shows that the southern Blythe Basin was part of a diffuse regional network of linked right-step¬ping dextral, normal, and oblique-slip faults related to Pacific-North America plate boundary dextral shear. Diffuse transtensional strain linked northward to the Stateline fault system, eastern Garlock fault, and Walker Lane, and southward to the Gulf of California shear zone, which initiated ca. 7-9 Ma, implying a similar age of inception for the paleo-ECSZ.

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Intra-oceanic submarine arc evolution recorded in an ~1-km-thick rear-arc succession of distal volcaniclastic lobe deposits
Kyle Johnson; Kathleen M. Marsaglia; Philipp A. Brandl; Andrew P. Barth; Ryan Waldman ...

Abstract: International Ocean Discovery Program (IODP) Expedition 351 drilled a rear-arc sedimentary succession ~50 km west of the Kyushu-Palau Ridge, an arc remnant formed by rifting during formation of the Shikoku Basin and the Izu-Bonin-Mariana arc. The ~1-km-thick Eocene to Oligocene deep-marine volcaniclastic succession recovered at Site U1438 provides a unique opportunity to study a nearly complete record of intra-oceanic arc development, from a rear-arc perspective on crust created during subduction initiation rather than supra-subduction seafloor spreading. Detailed facies analysis and definition of depositional units allow for broader stratigraphic analysis and definition of lobe elements. Patterns in gravity-flow deposit types and subunits appear to define a series of stacked lobe systems that accumulated in a rear-arc basin. The lobe subdivisions, in many cases, are a combination of a turbidite-dominated subunit and an overlying debris-flow subunit. Debris flow-rich lobe-channel sequences are grouped into four, 1.6-2 m.y. episodes, each roughly the age range of an arc volcano. Three of the episodes contain overlapping lobe facies that may have resulted from minor channel switching or input from a different source. The progressive up-section coarsening of episodes and the increasing channel-facies thicknesses within each episode suggest progressively prograding facies from a maturing magmatic arc. Submarine geomorphology of the modern Mariana arc and West Mariana Ridge provide present-day examples that can be used to interpret the morphology and evolution of the channel (or channels) that fed sediment to Site U1438, forming the sequences interpreted as depositional lobes. The abrupt change from very thick and massive debris flows to fine-grained turbidites at the unit III to unit II boundary reflects arc rifting and progressive waning of turbidity current and ash inputs. This interpretation is consistent with the geochemical record from melt inclusions and detrital zircons. Thus, Site U1438 provides a unique record of the life span of an intra-oceanic arc, from inception through maturation to its demise by intra-arc rifting and stranding of the remnant arc ridge.

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Measuring change at Earth's surface: On-demand vertical and three-dimensional topographic differencing implemented in OpenTopography
Chelsea Scott; Minh Phan; Viswanath Nandigam; Christopher Crosby; J Ramon Arrowsmith

Abstract: Topographic differencing measures landscape change by comparing multitemporal high-resolution topography data sets. Here, we focused on two types of topographic differencing: (1) Vertical differencing is the subtraction of digital elevation models (DEMs) that span an event of interest. (2) Three-dimensional (3-D) differencing measures surface change by registering point clouds with a rigid deformation. We recently released topographic differencing in OpenTopography where users perform on-demand vertical and 3-D differencing via an online interface. OpenTopography is a U.S. National Science Foundation-funded facility that provides access to topographic data and processing tools. While topographic differencing has been applied in numerous research studies, the lack of standardization, particularly of 3-D differencing, requires the customization of processing for individ¬ual data sets and hinders the community's ability to efficiently perform differencing on the growing archive of topography data. Our paper focuses on streamlined techniques with which to efficiently difference data sets with varying spatial resolution and sensor type (i.e., optical vs. light detection and ranging [lidar]) and over variable landscapes. To optimize on-demand differencing, we considered algorithm choice and displacement resolution. The optimal resolution is controlled by point density, landscape characteristics (e.g., leaf-on vs. leaf-off), and data set quality. We provide processing options derived from metadata that allow users to produce optimal high-quality results, while experienced users can fine tune the parameters to suit their needs. We anticipate that the differencing tool will expand access to this state-of-the-art technology, will be a valuable educational tool, and will serve as a template for differencing the growing number of multitemporal topography data sets.

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Coseismic deformation of the ground during large-slip strike-slip ruptures: Finite evolution of "mole tracks"
T.A. Little; P. Morris; M.P. Hill; J. Kearse; R.J. Van Dissen ...

Abstract: To evaluate ground deformation resulting from large (~10 m) coseismic strike-slip displacements, we focus on deformation of the Kekerengu fault during the November 2016 Mw 7.8 Kaik?ura earthquake in New Zealand. Combining post-earthquake field observations with analysis of high-resolution aerial photography and topographic models, we describe the structural geology and geomorphology of the rupture zone. During the earthquake, fissured pressure bulges ("mole tracks") initiated at stepovers between synthetic Riedel (R) faults. As slip accumulated, near-surface "rafts" of cohesive clay-rich sediment, bounded by R faults and capped by grassy turf, rotated about a vertical axis and were internally shortened, thus amplifying the bulges. The bulges are flanked by low-angle contractional faults that emplace the shortened mass of detached sediment outward over less-deformed ground. As slip accrued, turf rafts fragmented into blocks bounded by short secondary fractures striking at a high angle to the main fault trace that we interpret to have originated as antithetic Riedel (R¢) faults. Eventually these blocks were dispersed into strongly sheared earth and variably rotated. Along the fault, clockwise rotation of these turf rafts within the rupture zone averaged ~20°-30°, accommodat¬ing a finite shear strain of 1.0-1.5 and a distributed strike slip of ~3-4 m. On strike-slip parts of the fault, internal shortening of the rafts averaged 1-2 m parallel to the R faults and ~1 m perpendicular to the main fault trace. Driven by distortional rotation, this contraction of the rafts exceeds the magnitude of fault heave. Turf rafts on slightly transtensional segments of the fault were also bulged and shortened--relationships that can be explained by a kinematic model involving "deformable slats." In a paleoseismic trench cut perpendicular the fault, one would observe fissures, low-angle thrusts, and steeply dipping strike-slip faults--some cross-cutting one another--yet all may have formed during a single earthquake featuring a large strike-slip displacement.

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Detrital zircon record of Phanerozoic magmatism in the southern Central Andes
T.N. Capaldi; N.R. McKenzie; B.K. Horton; C. Mackaman-Lofland; C.L. Colleps ...

Abstract: The spatial and temporal distribution of arc magmatism and associated isotopic variations provide insights into the Phanerozoic history of the western margin of South America during major shifts in Andean and pre-Andean plate interactions. We integrated detrital zircon U-Th-Pb and Hf isotopic results across continental magmatic arc systems of Chile and western Argentina (28°S-33°S) with igneous bedrock geochronologic and zircon Hf isotope results to define isotopic signatures linked to changes in continental margin processes. Key tectonic phases included: Paleozoic terrane accretion and Carboniferous subduction initiation during Gondwanide orogenesis, Permian-Triassic extensional collapse, Jurassic-Paleogene continental arc magmatism, and Neogene flat slab subduction during Andean shortening. The ~550 m.y. record of magmatic activity records spatial trends in magma composition associated with terrane boundaries. East of 69°W, radiogenic isotopic signatures indicate reworked continental lithosphere with enriched (evolved) εHf values and low (<0.65) zircon Th/U ratios during phases of early Paleozoic and Miocene shortening and lithospheric thickening. In contrast, the magmatic record west of 69°W displays depleted (juvenile) εHf values and high (>0.7) zircon Th/U values consistent with increased asthenospheric contributions during lithospheric thinning. Spatial constraints on Mesozoic to Cenozoic arc width provide a rough approximation of relative subduction angle, such that an increase in arc width reflects shallower slab dip. Comparisons among slab dip calculations with time-averaged εHf and Th/U zircon results exhibit a clear trend of decreasing (enriched) magma compositions with increasing arc width and decreasing slab dip. Collectively, these data sets demonstrate the influence of subduction angle on the position of upper-plate magmatism (including inboard arc advance and outboard arc retreat), changes in isotopic signatures, and overall composition of crustal and mantle material along the western edge of South America.

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Prehistoric earthquakes on the Banning strand of the San Andreas fault, North Palm Springs, California
Bryan A. Castillo; Sally F. McGill; Katherine M. Scharer; Doug Yule; Devin McPhillips ...

Abstract: We studied a paleoseismic trench excavated in 2017 across the Banning strand of the San Andreas fault and herein provide the first detailed record of ground-breaking earthquakes on this important fault in Southern California. The trench exposed an ~40-m-wide fault zone cutting through alluvial sand, gravel, silt, and clay deposits. We evaluated the paleoseismic record using a new metric that combines event indicator quality and stratigraphic uncertainty. The most recent paleoearthquake occurred between 950 and 730 calibrated years B.P. (cal yr B.P.), potentially contemporaneous with the last rupture of the San Gorgonio Pass fault zone. We interpret five surface-rupturing earthquakes since 3.3-2.5 ka and eight earthquakes since 7.1-5.7 ka. It is possible that additional events have occurred but were not recognized, especially in the deeper (older) section of the stratigraphy, which was not fully exposed across the fault zone. We calculated an average recurrence interval of 380-640 yr based on four complete earthquake cycles between earthquakes 1 and 5. The average recurrence interval is thus slightly less than the elapsed time since the most recent event on the Banning strand. The average recurrence interval on the Banning strand is thus intermediate between longer intervals published for the San Gorgonio Pass fault zone (~1600 yr) and shorter intervals on both the Mission Creek strand of the San Andreas fault (~215 yr) and the Coachella section (~125 yr) of the San Andreas fault.

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Geomorphic expression and slip rate of the Fairweather fault, southeast Alaska, and evidence for predecessors of the 1958 rupture
Robert C. Witter; Adrian M. Bender; Katherine M. Scharer; Christopher B. DuRoss; Peter J. Haeussler ...

Abstract: Active traces of the southern Fairweather fault were revealed by light detection and ranging (lidar) and show evidence for transpressional deformation between North America and the Yakutat block in southeast Alaska. We map the Holocene geomorphic expression of tectonic deformation along the southern 30 km of the Fairweather fault, which ruptured in the 1958 moment magnitude 7.8 earthquake. Digital maps of surficial geology, geomorphology, and active faults illustrate both strike-slip and dip-slip deformation styles within a 10°-30° double restraining bend where the southern Fairweather fault steps offshore to the Queen Charlotte fault. We measure offset landforms along the fault and calibrate legacy 14C data to reassess the rate of Holocene strike-slip motion (?49 mm/yr), which corroborates published estimates that place most of the plate boundary motion on the Fairweather fault. Our slip-rate estimates allow a component of oblique-reverse motion to be accommodated by contractional structures west of the Fairweather fault consistent with geodetic block models. Stratigraphic and structural relations in hand-dug excavations across two active fault strands provide an incomplete paleoseismic record including evidence for up to six surface ruptures in the past 5600 years, and at least two to four events in the past 810 years. The incomplete record suggests an earthquake recurrence interval of ?270 years--much longer than intervals <100 years implied by published slip rates and expected earthquake displacements. Our paleoseismic observations and map of active traces of the southern Fairweather fault illustrate the complexity of transpressional deformation and seismic potential along one of Earth's fastest strike-slip plate boundaries.

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