News Release

New GSA bulletin articles published ahead of print in February

Peer-Reviewed Publication

Geological Society of America

Boulder, Colo., USA: Several articles were published online ahead of print for GSA Bulletin in February. Topics include earthquake cycles in southern Cascadia, fault dynamics in the Gulf of Mexico, debris flow after wildfires, the assembly of Rodinia, and the case for no ring fracture in Mono basin.

Jurassic evolution of the Qaidam Basin in western China: Constrained by stratigraphic succession, detrital zircon U-Pb geochronology and Hf isotope analysis
Tao Qian; Zongxiu Wang; Yu Wang; Shaofeng Liu; Wanli Gao ...
Abstract: The formation and evolution of an intracontinental basin triggered via the subduction or collision of plates at continental margins can record intracontinental tectonic processes. As a typical intracontinental basin during the Jurassic, the Qaidam Basin in western China records how this extensional basin formed and evolved in response to distant subduction or collisional processes and tectonism caused by stresses transmitted from distant convergent plate margins. The Jurassic evolution of the Qaidam Basin, in terms of basin-filling architecture, sediment dispersal pattern and basin properties, remains speculative; hence, these uncertainties need to be revisited. An integrated study of the stratigraphic succession, conglomerates, U-Pb geochronology, and Hf isotopes of detrital zircons was adopted to elucidate the Jurassic evolutionary process of the Qaidam Basin. The results show that a discrete Jurassic terrestrial succession characterized by alluvial fan, braided stream, braided river delta, and lacustrine deposits developed on the western and northern margins of the Qaidam Basin. The stratigraphic succession, U-Pb age dating, and Hf isotope analysis, along with the reconstructed provenance results, suggest small-scale distribution of Lower Jurassic sediments deposited via autochthonous sedimentation on the western margin of the basin, with material mainly originating from the Altyn Tagh Range. Lower Jurassic sediments in the western segment of the northern basin were shed from the Qilian Range (especially the South Qilian) and Eastern Kunlun Range. And coeval sediments in the eastern segment of the northern basin were originated from the Quanji massif. During the Middle-Late Jurassic, the primary source areas were the Qilian Range and Eastern Kunlun Range, which fed material to the whole basin. The Jurassic sedimentary environment in the Qaidam Basin evolved from a series of small-scale, scattered, and rift-related depressions distributed on the western and northern margins during the Early Jurassic to a larger, extensive, and unified depression occupying the whole basin in the Middle Jurassic. The Altyn Tagh Range rose to a certain extent during the Early Jurassic but lacked large-scale strike-slip tectonism throughout the Jurassic. At that time, the North Qaidam tectonic belt had not yet been uplifted and did not shed material into the basin during the Jurassic. The Qaidam Basin experienced intracontinental extensional tectonism with a northeast-southwest trend throughout the Jurassic in response to far-field effects driven by the sequential northward or northeastward amalgamation of blocks to the southern margin of the Qaidam Block and successive accretion of the Qiangtang Block and Lhasa Block onto the southern Eurasian margin during the Late Triassic−Early Jurassic and Late Jurassic−Early Cretaceous, respectively.
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Late Mesoproterozoic low-P/T−type metamorphism in the North Wulan terrane: Implications for the assembly of Rodinia
Lu Wang; Stephen T. Johnston; Nengsong Chen; Heng Wang; Bin Xia ...
Abstract: Regional metamorphism provides critical constraints for unravelling lithosphere evolution and geodynamic settings, especially in an orogenic system. Recently, there has been a debate on the Rodinia-forming Tarimian orogeny within the Greater Tarim block in NW China. The North Wulan terrane, involved in the Paleozoic Qilian orogen, was once part of the Greater Tarim block. This investigation of petrography, whole-rock and mineral geochemistry, phase equilibrium modeling, and in situ monazite U-Pb dating of garnetite, pelitic gneiss, and quartz schist samples from the Statherian−Calymmian unit of the North Wulan terrane provides new constraints on the evolutionary history of the Greater Tarim block at the end of the Mesoproterozoic during the assembly of Rodinia. The studied samples yielded three monazite U-Pb age groups of ca. 1.32 Ga, 1.1 Ga, and 0.45 Ga that are interpreted to be metamorphic in origin. The tectonic significance of the early ca. 1.32 Ga metamorphism is uncertain and may indicate an extensional setting associated with the final breakup of Columbia. The ca. 1.1 Ga low-pressure, high-temperature (low-P/T )−type granulite-facies metamorphism is well preserved and characterized by a clockwise P-T path with a minimum estimation of ∼840−900 °C and ∼7−11 kbar for peak metamorphism, followed by postpeak decompression and cooling. A tectonothermal disturbance occurred at ca. 0.45 Ga, but with limited influence on the preexisting mineral compositions of the studied samples. The characteristics of the metamorphism indicate an arc−back-arc environment with ongoing subduction of oceanic lithosphere at ca. 1.1 Ga. Combined with previous studies, we suggest that the Greater Tarim block probably experienced a prolonged subduction-to-collision process at ca. 1.1−0.9 Ga during the assembly of Rodinia, with a position between western Laurentia and India−East Antarctica.
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Imaging the Late Triassic lithospheric architecture of the Yidun Terrane, eastern Tibetan Plateau: Observations and interpretations
Qiong-Yao Zhan; Di-Cheng Zhu; Qing Wang; Peter A. Cawood; Jin-Cheng Xie ...
Abstract: The present-day lithospheric architecture of modern and ancient orogens can be imaged by geophysical techniques. For ancient orogens, unravelling their architecture at the time of formation is hindered by later tectono-magmatic events. In this paper, we use spatial variations in radiogenic isotopic compositions of Late Triassic magmatism from the Yidun Terrane, eastern Tibetan Plateau, to establish its lithospheric architecture during the Triassic. Comprehensive geochemical and isotopic data of Late Triassic magmatic rocks from four transects across the Yidun Terrane document eastward enrichment in whole-rock Nd, Sr, and zircon Hf isotopic compositions. Mafic and felsic rocks of major plutons show coherent and nonlinear trends in the Zr and P2O5 systematics and have limited variation of isotopic compositions. This indicates that Late Triassic magmatic differentiation was dominated by fractionation of mantle-derived mafic magmas. The spatial isotopic trends result from changing mantle sources, including variable contributions of isotopically depleted asthenospheric mantle and isotopically enriched subcontinental lithospheric mantle (SCLM) to magma sources. The spatial variation of mantle sources suggests a westward thinning of the SCLM during the Triassic. We propose that this architecture is most likely associated with eastward subduction of oceanic lithosphere of the Jinshajiang Ocean located at the west of the Yidun Terrane, immediately prior to the Late Triassic magmatism.
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Cambrian magmatic flare-up, central Tibet: Magma mixing in proto-Tethyan arc along north Gondwanan margin
Pei-yuan Hu; Qing-guo Zhai; Peter A. Cawood; Guo-chun Zhao; Jun Wang ...
Abstract: Accompanying Gondwana assembly, widespread but diachronous Ediacaran−early Paleozoic magmatism of uncertain origin occurred along the supercontinent’s proto-Tethyan margin. We report new geochemical, isotopic, and geochronological data for Cambrian magmatic rocks (ca. 500 Ma) from the Gondwana-derived North Lhasa terrane, located in the present-day central Tibetan Plateau. The magmatic rocks are composed of basalts, gabbros, quartz monzonites, granitoids (with mafic microgranular enclaves), and rhyolites. Nd-Hf isotopic and whole-rock geochemical data indicate that these rocks were probably generated by mixing of mantle-derived mafic and crust-derived felsic melts. The mantle end-member volumes of mafic, intermediate, and felsic rocks are ∼75%−100%, 50%−60%, and 0−30%, respectively. Integration of our new data with previous studies suggests that the North Lhasa terrane experienced long-term magmatism through the Ediacaran to Ordovician (ca. 572−483 Ma), with a magmatic flare-up at ca. 500 Ma. This magmatism, in combination with other Ediacaran−early Paleozoic magmatism along the proto-Tethyan margin, was related to an Andean-type arc, with the magmatic flare-up event related to detachment of the oceanic slab following collisional accretion of Asian microcontinental fragments to northern Gondwana. Diachroneity of the proto-Tethyan arc system along the northern Gondwanan margin (ca. 581−531 Ma along the Arabian margin and ca. 512−429 Ma along the Indian-Australian margin) may have been linked to orogenesis within Gondwana. The North Lhasa terrane was probably involved in both Arabian and Indian-Australian proto-Tethyan Andean-type orogens, based on its paleogeographic location at the northern end of the East African orogen.
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Rift inheritance controls the switch from thin- to thick-skinned thrusting and basal décollement re-localization at the subduction-to-collision transition
Stefano Tavani; Pablo Granado; Amerigo Corradetti; Giovanni Camanni; Gianluca Vignaroli ...
Abstract: In accretionary convergent margins, the subduction interface is formed by a lower plate décollement above which sediments are scraped off and incorporated into the accretionary wedge. During subduction, the basal décollement is typically located within or at the base of the sedimentary pile. However, the transition to collision implies the accretion of the lower plate continental crust and deformation of its inherited rifted margin architecture. During this stage, the basal décollement may remain confined to shallow structural levels as during subduction or re-localize into the lower plate middle-lower crust. Modes and timing of such re-localization are still poorly understood. We present cases from the Zagros, Apennines, Oman, and Taiwan belts, all of which involve a former rifted margin and point to a marked influence of inherited rift-related structures on the décollement re-localization. A deep décollement level occurs in the outer sectors of all of these belts, i.e., in the zone involving the proximal domain of pre-orogenic rift systems. Older—and shallower—décollement levels are preserved in the upper and inner zones of the tectonic pile, which include the base of the sedimentary cover of the distal portions of the former rifted margins. We propose that thinning of the ductile middle crust in the necking domains during rifting, and its complete removal in the hyperextended domains, hampered the development of deep-seated décollements during the inception of shortening. Progressive orogenic involvement of the proximal rift domains, where the ductile middle crust was preserved upon rifting, favors its reactivation as a décollement in the frontal portion of the thrust system. Such décollement eventually links to the main subduction interface, favoring underplating and the upward motion of internal metamorphic units, leading to their final emplacement onto the previously developed tectonic stack.
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No ring fracture in Mono Basin, California
Wes Hildreth; Judy Fierstein; Juliet Ryan-Davis
Abstract: In Mono Basin, California, USA, a near-circular ring fracture 12 km in diameter was proposed by R.W. Kistler in 1966 to have originated as the protoclastic margin of the Cretaceous Aeolian Buttes pluton, to have been reactivated in the middle Pleistocene, and to have influenced the arcuate trend of the chain of 30 young (62−0.7 ka) rhyolite domes called the Mono Craters. In view of the frequency and recency of explosive eruptions along the Mono chain, and because many geophysicists accepted the ring fracture model, we assembled evidence to test its plausibility. The shear zone interpreted as the margin of the Aeolian Buttes pluton by Kistler is 50−400 m wide but is exposed only along a 7-km-long set of four southwesterly outcrops that subtend only a 70° sector of the proposed ring. The southeast end of the exposed shear zone is largely within the older June Lake pluton, and at its northwest end, the contact of the Aeolian Buttes pluton with a much older one crosses the shear zone obliquely. Conflicting attitudes of shear structures are hard to reconcile with intrusive protoclasis. Also inconsistent with the margin of the ovoid intrusion proposed by Kistler, unsheared salients of the pluton extend ∼1 km north of its postulated circular outline at Williams Butte, where there is no fault or other structure to define the northern half of the hypothetical ring. The shear zone may represent regional Cretaceous transpression rather than the margin of a single intrusion. There is no evidence for the Aeolian Buttes pluton along the aqueduct tunnel beneath the Mono chain, nor is there evidence for a fault that could have influenced its vent pattern. The apparently arcuate chain actually consists of three linear segments that reflect Quaternary tectonic influence and not Cretaceous inheritance. A rhyolitic magma reservoir under the central segment of the Mono chain has erupted many times in the late Holocene and as recently as 700 years ago. The ring fracture idea, however, prompted several geophysical investigations that sought a much broader magma body, but none identified a low-density or low-velocity anomaly beneath the purported 12-km-wide ring, which we conclude does not exist.
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Timing and amount of southern Cascadia earthquake subsidence over the past 1700 years at northern Humboldt Bay, California, USA
Jason S. Padgett; Simon E. Engelhart; Harvey M. Kelsey; Robert C. Witter; Niamh Cahill ...
Abstract: Stratigraphic, lithologic, foraminiferal, and radiocarbon analyses indicate that at least four abrupt mud-over-peat contacts are recorded across three sites (Jacoby Creek, McDaniel Creek, and Mad River Slough) in northern Humboldt Bay, California, USA (∼44.8°N, −124.2°W). The stratigraphy records subsidence during past megathrust earthquakes at the southern Cascadia subduction zone ∼40 km north of the Mendocino Triple Junction. Maximum and minimum radiocarbon ages on plant macrofossils from above and below laterally extensive (>6 km) contacts suggest regional synchroneity of subsidence. The shallowest contact has radiocarbon ages that are consistent with the most recent great earthquake at Cascadia, which occurred at 250 cal yr B.P. (1700 CE). Using Bchron and OxCal software, we model ages for the three older contacts of ca. 875 cal yr B.P., ca. 1120 cal yr B.P., and ca. 1620 cal yr B.P. For each of the four earthquakes, we analyze foraminifera across representative mud-over-peat contacts selected from McDaniel Creek. Changes in fossil foraminiferal assemblages across all four contacts reveal sudden relative sea-level (RSL) rise (land subsidence) with submergence lasting from decades to centuries. To estimate subsidence during each earthquake, we reconstructed RSL rise across the contacts using the fossil foraminiferal assemblages in a Bayesian transfer function. The coseismic subsidence estimates are 0.85 ± 0.46 m for the 1700 CE earthquake, 0.42 ± 0.37 m for the ca. 875 cal yr B.P. earthquake, 0.79 ± 0.47 m for the ca. 1120 cal yr B.P. earthquake, and ≥0.93 m for the ca. 1620 cal yr B.P. earthquake. The subsidence estimate for the ca. 1620 cal yr B.P. earthquake is a minimum because the pre-subsidence paleoenvironment likely was above the upper limit of foraminiferal habitation. The subsidence estimate for the ca. 875 cal yr B.P. earthquake is less than (<50%) the subsidence estimates for other contacts and suggests that subsidence magnitude varied over the past four earthquake cycles in southern Cascadia.
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Fault kinematics: A record of tectono-climatically controlled sedimentation along passive margins, an example from the U.S. Gulf of Mexico
Abah P. Omale; Juan M. Lorenzo; Ali AlDhamen; Peter D. Clift; A. Alexander G. Webb
Abstract: Faults offsetting sedimentary strata can record changes in sedimentation driven by tectonic and climatic forcing. Fault kinematic analysis is effective at evaluating changes in sediment volumes at salt/shale-bearing passive margins where sediment loading drives faulting. We explore these processes along the northern Gulf of Mexico. Incremental throw along 146 buried faults studied across onshore Louisiana revealed continual Cenozoic fault reactivation punctuated by inactive periods along a few faults. Fault scarp heights measured from light detection and ranging (LiDAR) data are interpreted to show that Cenozoic fault reactivation continued through the Pleistocene. The areas of highest fault throw and maximum sediment deposition shifted from southwest Louisiana in the early Miocene to southeast Louisiana in the middle−late Miocene. These changes in the locus of maximum fault reactivation and sediment deposition were controlled by changing tectonics and climate in the source areas. Early Miocene fault throw estimates indicate a depocenter farther east than previously mapped and support the idea that early Miocene Appalachian Mountain uplift and erosion routed sediment to southeast Louisiana. By correlating changes in fault throw with changes in sediment deposition, we suggest that (1) fault kinematic analysis can be used to evaluate missing sediment volumes because fault offsets can be preserved despite partial erosion, (2) fault throw estimates can be used to infer changes in past tectonic and climate-related processes driving sedimentation, and (3) these observations are applicable to other passive margins with mobile substrates and faulted strata within overfilled sedimentary basins.
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An extreme climate gradient-induced ecological regionalization in the Upper Cretaceous Western Interior Basin of North America
Landon Burgener; Ethan Hyland; Emily Griffith; Helena Mitášová; Lindsay E. Zanno ...
Abstract: The Upper Cretaceous Western Interior Basin of North America provides a unique laboratory for constraining the effects of spatial climate patterns on the macroevolution and spatiotemporal distribution of biological communities across geologic timescales. Previous studies suggested that Western Interior Basin terrestrial ecosystems were divided into distinct southern and northern communities, and that this provincialism was maintained by a putative climate barrier at ∼50°N paleolatitude; however, this climate barrier hypothesis has yet to be tested. We present mean annual temperature (MAT) spatial interpolations for the Western Interior Basin that confirm the presence of a distinct terrestrial climate barrier in the form of a MAT transition zone between 48°N and 58°N paleolatitude during the final 15 m.y. of the Cretaceous. This transition zone was characterized by steep latitudinal temperature gradients and divided the Western Interior Basin into warm southern and cool northern biomes. Similarity analyses of new compilations of fossil pollen and leaf records from the Western Interior Basin suggest that the biogeographical distribution of primary producers in the Western Interior Basin was heavily influenced by the presence of this temperature transition zone, which in turn may have impacted the distribution of the entire trophic system across western North America.
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Debris flow initiation from ravel-filled channel bed failure following wildfire in a bedrock landscape with limited sediment supply
Marisa C. Palucis; Thomas P. Ulizio; Michael P. Lamb
Abstract: Steep, rocky landscapes often produce large sediment yields and debris flows following wildfire. Debris flows can initiate from landsliding or rilling in soil-mantled portions of the landscape, but there have been few direct observations of debris flow initiation in steep, rocky portions of the landscape that lack a thick, continuous soil mantle. We monitored a steep, first-order catchment that burned in the San Gabriel Mountains, California, USA. Following fire, but prior to rainfall, much of the hillslope soil mantle was removed by dry ravel, exposing bedrock and depositing ∼0.5 m of sandy sediment in the channel network. During a one-year recurrence rainstorm, debris flows initiated in the channel network, evacuating the accumulated dry ravel and underlying cobble bed, and scouring the channel to bedrock. The channel abuts a plowed terrace, which allowed a complete sediment budget, confirming that ∼95% of sediment deposited in a debris flow fan matched that evacuated from the channel, with a minor rainfall-driven hillslope contribution. Subsequent larger storms produced debris flows in higher-order channels but not in the first-order channel because of a sediment supply limitation. These observations are consistent with a model for post-fire ravel routing in steep, rocky landscapes where sediment was sourced by incineration of vegetation dams—following ∼30 years of hillslope soil production since the last fire—and transported downslope by dry processes, leading to a hillslope sediment-supply limitation and infilling of low-order channels with relatively fine sediment. Our observations of debris flow initiation are consistent with failure of the channel bed alluvium due to grain size reduction from dry ravel deposits that allowed high Shields numbers and mass failure even for moderate intensity rainstorms.
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The assembly of the South China and Indochina blocks: Constraints from the Triassic felsic volcanics in the Youjiang Basin
Chengshi Gan; Yuejun Wang; Yuzhi Zhang; Xin Qian; Aimei Zhang
Abstract: The Youjiang Basin is usually regarded as an important foreland basin in the southern part of the South China Block that is related to the convergence of the South China and Indochina blocks during the Permian-Triassic. However, the nature of the basin remains controversial due to questions about the subduction polarity and suture boundary between these two blocks. Permian-Triassic felsic volcanics across the Dian-Qiong and Song Ma suture zones could offer new insights into the convergent processes of the South China and Indochina blocks. This study presents detailed petrological, zircon U-Pb dating, and Hf-O isotope and whole-rock geochemical analyses for the Triassic felsic volcanics of the Youjiang Basin (northeast of the Dian-Qiong). The dacites and rhyolites from the Beisi and Baifeng Formations were dated at ca. 240−245 Ma. All of the felsic volcanics are characterized by high SiO2 (69.40−73.15 wt%), FeOt/MgO, 10000*Ga/Al, and TZr, δ 18O (9.7−11.8‰) and negative εNd(t) (from −9.6 to −12.3) and zircon εHf(t) (from −6.2 to −14.5) with A-type granitoid geochemical affinities, suggesting the reworking of crustal rocks in an extensional setting. Permian-Triassic felsic igneous rocks display similar geochemical signatures across the Dian-Qiong suture zone, whereas they show distinctive Sr-Nd and zircon Hf-O isotopes across the Song Ma suture zone. The felsic igneous rocks to the northeast of the Song Ma suture zone have much lower εNd(t) and higher δ18O with negative zircon εHf(t) than those to the southwest, which have positive zircon εHf(t). Combined with other geological and geophysical features, it is inferred that the Song Ma suture zone was probably the suture boundary between the South China and Indochina blocks, and the Youjiang Basin was likely a peripheral foreland basin in response to the southwestward convergence of the South China Block toward the Indochina Block.
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High-latitude ice and climate control on sediment supply across SW Gondwana during the late Carboniferous and early Permian
N. Griffis; I. Montañez; R. Mundil; D. Le Heron; P. Dietrich ...
Abstract: The response of sediment routing to climatic changes across icehouse-to-greenhouse turnovers is not well documented in Earth’s pre-Cenozoic sedimentary record. Southwest Gondwana hosts one of the thickest and most laterally extensive records of Earth’s penultimate icehouse, the late Paleozoic ice age. We present the first high-resolution U-Pb zircon chemical abrasion−isotope dilution−thermal ionization mass spectrometry (CA-ID-TIMS) analysis of late Paleozoic ice age deposits in the Kalahari Basin of southern Africa, which, coupled with existing CA-ID-TIMS zircon records from the Paraná and Karoo Basins, we used to refine the late Paleozoic ice age glacial history of SW Gondwana. Key findings from this work suggest that subglacial evidence in the Kalahari region is restricted to the Carboniferous (older than 300 Ma), with glacially influenced deposits culminating in this region by the earliest Permian (296 Ma). The U-Pb detrital zircon geochronologic records from the Paraná Basin of South America, which was located downstream of the Kalahari Basin in the latest Carboniferous and Permian, indicate that large-scale changes in sediment supplied to the Paraná were contemporaneous with shifts in the SW Gondwana ice record. Gondwanan deglaciation events were associated with the delivery of far-field, African-sourced sediments into the Paraná Basin. In contrast, Gondwanan glacial periods were associated with the restriction of African-sourced sediments into the basin. We interpret the influx of far-field sediments into the Paraná Basin as an expansion of the catchment area for the Paraná Basin during the deglaciation events, which occurred in the latest Carboniferous (300−299 Ma), early Permian (296 Ma), and late early Permian (<284 Ma). The coupled ice and detrital zircon records for this region of Gondwana present opportunities to investigate climate feedbacks associated with changes in freshwater and nutrient delivery to late Paleozoic ocean basins across the turnover from icehouse to greenhouse conditions.
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