News Release

Current issue articles for Geosphere posted online in February

Peer-Reviewed Publication

Geological Society of America

Boulder, Colo., USA: GSA’s dynamic online journal, Geosphere, posts articles online regularly. Topics for articles posted for Geosphere this month include “a tale of five enclaves”; evidence for mantle and Moho in the Baltimore Mafic Complex (Maryland, USA); and the after effects of the 1964 Mw 9.2 megathrust rupture, Alaska.

From Ordovician nascent to early Permian mature arc in the southern Altaids: Insights from the Kalatage inlier in the Eastern Tianshan, NW China
Qigui Mao; Jingbin Wang; Wenjiao Xiao; Brian F. Windley; Karel Schulmann ...
Abstract: The Kalatage inlier in the Dananhu-Haerlik arc is one of the most important arcs in the Eastern Tianshan, southern Altaids (or Central Asian orogenic belt). Based on outcrop maps and core logs, we report 16 new U-Pb dates in order to reconstruct the stratigraphic framework of the Dananhu-Haerlik arc. The new U-Pb ages reveal that the volcanic and intrusive rocks formed in the interval from the Ordovician to early Permian (445–299 Ma), with the oldest diorite dike at 445 ± 3 Ma and the youngest rhyolite at 299 ± 2 Ma. These results constrain the ages of the oldest basaltic and volcaniclastic rocks of the Ordovician Huangchaopo Group, which were intruded by granite- granodiorite-diorite plutons in the Late Ordovician to middle Silurian (445–426 Ma). The second oldest components are intermediate volcanic and volcaniclastic rocks of the early Silurian Hongliuxia Formation (S 1h), which lies unconformably on the Huangchaopo Group and is unconformably overlain by Early Devonian volcanic rocks (416 Ma). From the mid- to late Silurian (S2-3), all the rocks were exhumed, eroded, and overlain by polymictic pyroclastic deposits. Following subaerial to shallow subaqueous burial at 416–300 Ma by intermediate to felsic volcanic and volcaniclastics rocks, the succession was intruded by diorites, granodiorites, and granites (390–314 Ma). The arc volcanic and intrusive rocks are characterized by potassium enrichment, when they evolved from mafic to felsic and from tholeiitic via transitional and calc-alkaline to final high-K calc- alkaline compositions with relatively low initial Sr values, (87Sr/86Sr)i = 0.70391–0.70567, and positive εNd(t) values, +4.1 to +9.2. These new data suggest that the Dananhu-Haerlik arc is a long-lived arc that consequently requires a new evolutionary model. It began as a nascent (immature) intra-oceanic arc in the Ordovician to early Silurian, and it evolved into a mature island arc in the middle Silurian to early Permian. The results suggest that the construction of a juvenile-to-mature arc, in combination with its lateral attachment to an incoming arc or continent, was an important crustal growth mechanism in the southern Altaids.
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A tale of five enclaves: Mineral perspectives on origins of mafic enclaves in the Tuolumne Intrusive Complex
C.G. Barnes; K. Werts; V. Memeti; S.R. Paterson; R. Bremer
Abstract: The widespread occurrence of mafic magmatic enclaves (mme) in arc volcanic rocks attests to hybridization of mafic-intermediate magmas with felsic ones. Typically, mme and their hosts differ in mineral assemblage and the compositions of phenocrysts and matrix glass. In contrast, in many arc plutons, the mineral assemblages in mme are the same as in their host granitic rocks, and major-element mineral compositions are similar or identical. These similarities lead to difficulties in identifying mixing end members except through the use of bulk-rock compositions, which themselves may reflect various degrees of hybridization and potentially melt loss. This work describes the variety of enclave types and occurrences in the equigranular Half Dome unit (eHD) of the Tuolumne Intrusive Complex and then focuses on textural and mineral composition data on five porphyritic mme from the eHD. Specifically, major- and trace-element compositions and zoning patterns of plagioclase and hornblende were measured in the mme and their adjacent host granitic rocks. In each case, the majority of plagioclase phenocrysts in the mme (i.e., large crystals) were derived from a rhyolitic end member. The trace-element compositions and zoning patterns in these plagioclase phenocrysts indicate that each mme formed by hybridization with a distinct rhyolitic magma. In some cases, hybridization involved a single mixing event, whereas in others, evidence for at least two mixing events is preserved. In contrast, some hornblende phenocrysts grew from the enclave magma, and others were derived from the rhyolitic end member. Moreover, the composition of hornblende in the immediately adjacent host rock is distinct from hornblende typically observed in the eHD. Although primary basaltic magmas are thought to be parental to the mme, little or no evidence of such parents is preserved in the enclaves. Instead, the data indicate that hybridization of already hybrid andesitic enclave magmas with rhyolitic magmas in the eHD involved multiple andesitic and rhyolitic end members, which in turn is consistent with the eHD representing an amalgamation of numerous, compositionally distinct magma reservoirs. This conclusion applies to enclaves sampled <30 m from one another. Moreover, during amalgamation of various rhyolitic reservoirs, some mme were evidently disrupted from a surrounding mush and thus carried remnants of that mush as their immediately adjacent host. We suggest that detailed study of mineral compositions and zoning in plutonic mme provides a means to identify magmatic processes that cannot be deciphered from bulk-rock analysis.
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Suprasubduction zone ophiolite fragments in the central Appalachian orogen: Evidence for mantle and Moho in the Baltimore Mafic Complex (Maryland, USA)
George L. Guice; Michael R. Ackerson; Robert M. Holder; Freya R. George; Joseph F. Browning-Hanson ...
Abstract: Suprasubduction zone (SSZ) ophiolites of the northern Appalachians (eastern North America) have provided key constraints on the fundamental tectonic processes responsible for the evolution of the Appalachian orogen. The central and southern Appalachians, which extend from southern New York to Alabama (USA), also contain numerous ultra- mafic-mafic bodies that have been interpreted as ophiolite fragments; however, this interpretation is a matter of debate, with the origin(s) of such occurrences also attributed to layered intrusions. These disparate proposed origins, alongside the range of possible magmatic affinities, have varied potential implications for the magmatic and tectonic evolution of the central and southern Appalachian orogen and its relationship with the northern Appalachian orogen. We present the results of field observations, petrography, bulk-rock geochemistry, and spinel mineral chemistry for ultramafic portions of the Baltimore Mafic Complex, which refers to a series of ultramafic-mafic bodies that are discontinuously exposed in Maryland and southern Pennsylvania (USA). Our data indicate that the Baltimore Mafic Complex comprises SSZ ophiolite fragments. The Soldiers Delight Ultramafite displays geochemical characteristics—including highly depleted bulk-rock trace element patterns and high Cr# of spinel—characteristic of subduction-related mantle peridotites and serpentinites. The Hollofield Ultramafite likely represents the “layered ultramafics” that form the Moho. Interpretation of the Baltimore Mafic Complex as an Iapetus Ocean–derived SSZ ophiolite in the central Appalachian orogen raises the possibility that a broadly coeval suite of ophiolites is preserved along thousands of kilometers of orogenic strike.
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Detrital zircon petrochronology of central Australia, and implications for the secular record of zircon trace element composition
Charles Verdel; Matthew J. Campbell; Charlotte M. Allen
Abstract: Hafnium (Hf) isotope composition of zircon has been integrated with U-Pb age to form a long-term (>4 b.y.) record of the evolution of the crust. In contrast, trace element compositions of zircon are most commonly utilized in local- or regional-scale petrological studies, and the most noteworthy applications of trace element studies of detrital zircon have been in “fingerprinting” potential source lithologies. The extent to which zircon trace element compositions varied globally over geological time scales (as, for example, zircon U-Pb age abundance, O isotope composition, and Hf isotope composition seem to have varied) has been little explored, and it is a topic that is well suited to the large data sets produced by detrital zircon studies. In this study we present new detrital zircon U-Pb ages and trace element compositions from a continent-scale basin system in Australia (the Centralian Superbasin) that bear directly on the Proterozoic history of Australia and which may be applicable to broader interpretations of plate-tectonic processes in other regions. U-Pb ages of detrital zircon in the Centralian Superbasin are dominated by populations of ca. 1800, 1600, 1200, and 600 Ma, and secular variations of zircon Hf isotope ratios are correlated with some trace element parameters between these major age populations. In particular, elevated εHf(i) (i.e., radiogenic “juvenile” Hf isotope composition) of detrital zircon in the Centralian Superbasin tends to correspond with relatively high values of Yb/U, Ce anomaly, and Lu/Nd (i.e., depletion of light rare earth elements). These correlations seem to be fundamentally governed by three related factors: elemental compatibility in the continental crust versus mantle, the thickness of continental crust, and the contributions of sediment to magmas. Similar trace element versus εHf(i) patterns among a global zircon data set suggest broad applicability. One particularly intriguing aspect of the global zircon data set is a late Neoproterozoic to Cambrian period during which both zircon εHf(i) and Yb/U reached minima, marking an era of anomalous zircon geochemistry that was related to significant contributions from old continental crust.
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Along-strike variations in protothrust zone characteristics at the Nankai Trough subduction margin
Hannah L. Tilley; Gregory F. Moore; Mikiya Yamashita; Shuichi Kodaira

Abstract: Significant along-strike changes in the protothrust zone at the toe of the Nankai Trough accretionary prism were imaged in new high-resolution seismic reflection data. The width of the protothrust zone varies greatly along strike; two spatially discrete segments have a wide protothrust zone (∼3.3–7.8 km, ∼50–110 protothrusts), and two segments have almost no protothrust zone (∼0.5–2.8 km, <20 protothrusts). The widest protothrust zone occurs in the region with the widest and thickest sediment wedge and subducting turbidite package, both of which are influenced by basement topography. The trench wedge size and lithology, the lithology of the subducting section, and the basement topography all influence the rate of consolidation in the trench wedge, which we hypothesize is an important control over the presence and width of the protothrust zone. We conclude that protothrusts are fractures that form from shear surfaces in deformation band clusters as the trench fill sediment is consolidated. Strain localization occurs at sites with a high density of protothrusts, which become the probable locations of future frontal thrust propagation. The frontal thrust may propagate forward with a lower buildup of strain where it is adjacent to a wide protothrust zone than at areas with a narrow or no protothrust zone. This is reflected in the accretionary prism geometry, where wide protothrust zones occur adjacent to fault-propagation folds with shallow prism toe surface slopes.
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The Permian Monos Formation: Stratigraphic and detrital zircon evidence for Permian Cordilleran arc development along the southwestern margin of Laurentia (northwestern Sonora, Mexico)
Stephen C. Dobbs; Nancy R. Riggs; Kathleen M. Marsaglia; Carlos M. González-León; M. Robinson Cecil ...
Abstract: The southwestern margin of Laurentia transitioned from a left-lateral transform margin to a convergent margin by middle Permian time, which initiated the development of a subduction zone and subsequent Cordilleran arc along western Laurentia. The displaced Caborca block was translated several hundred kilometers from southern California, USA, to modern Sonora, Mexico, beginning in Pennsylvanian time (ca. 305 Ma). The Monos Formation, a ~600-m-thick assemblage of mixed bioclastic and volcaniclastic units exposed in northwestern Sonora, provides lithostratigraphic, petrographic, and geochronologic evidence for magmatic arc development associated with subduction by middle Permian time (ca. 275 Ma). The Monos Formation was deposited in a forearc basin adjacent to a magmatic arc forming along the southwestern Laurentian margin. Detrital zircon U-Pb geochronology suggests that Permian volcanic centers were the primary source for the Monos Formation. These grains mixed with far-traveled zircons from both Laurentia and Gondwana. Zircon age spectra in the Monos Formation are dominated by a ca. 274 Ma population that makes up 65% of all analyzed grains. The remaining 35% of grains range from 3.3 Ga to 0.3 Ma, similar to age spectra from Permian strata deposited in the Paleozoic sequences in the western continental interior. An abundance of Paleozoic through early Neoproterozoic ages suggests that marginal Gondwanan sources from Mexico and Central America also supplied material to the basin. The Monos Formation was deposited within tropical to subtropical latitudes, yet faunal assemblages are biosiliceous and heterotrophic. The lack of photozoan assemblages suggests that cold-water coastal upwelling combined with sedimentation from the Cordilleran arc and Laurentian continent promoted conditions more suitable for fauna resilient to biogeochemically stressed environments. We propose that transform faulting and displacement of the Caborca block ceased by middle Permian time and a subduction zone developed along the southwestern margin of Laurentia as early as early Permian time. The Monos basin developed along the leading edge of the continent as a magmatic arc developed, and facies indicate a consistent shoaling trend over the span of deposition.
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Detrital sanidine 40Ar/39Ar dating confirms <2 Ma age of Crooked Ridge paleoriver and subsequent deep denudation of the southwestern Colorado Plateau
Matthew T. Heizler; Karl E. Karlstrom; Micael Albonico; Richard Hereford; L. Sue Beard ...
Abstract: Crooked Ridge and White Mesa in northeastern Arizona (southwestern United States) preserve, as inverted topography, a 57-km-long abandoned alluvial system near the present drainage divide between the Colorado, San Juan, and Little Colorado Rivers. The pathway of this paleoriver, flowing southwest toward eastern Grand Canyon, has led to provocative alternative models for its potential importance in carving Grand Canyon. The ~50-m-thick White Mesa alluvium is the only datable record of this paleoriver system. We present new 40Ar/39Ar sanidine dating that confirms a ca. 2 Ma maximum depositional age for White Mesa alluvium, supported by a large mode (n = 42) of dates from 2.06 to 1.76 Ma. Older grain modes show abundant 37–23 Ma grains mostly derived ultimately from the San Juan Mountains, as is also documented by rare volcanic and basement pebbles in the White Mesa alluvium. A tuff with an age of 1.07 ± 0.05 Ma is inset below, and hence provides a younger age bracket for the White Mesa alluvium. Newly dated remnant deposits on Black Mesa contain similar 37–23 Ma grains and exotic pebbles, plus a large mode (n = 71) of 9.052 ± 0.003 Ma sanidine. These deposits could be part of the White Mesa alluvium without any Pleistocene grains, but new detrital sanidine data from the upper Bidahochi Formation near Ganado, Arizona, have similar maximum depositional ages of 11.0–6.1 Ma and show similar 40–20 Ma San Juan Mountains–derived sanidine. Thus, we tentatively interpret the <9 Ma Black Mesa deposit to be a remnant of an 11–6 Ma Bidahochi alluvial system derived from the now-eroded southwestern fringe of the San Juan Mountains. This alluvial fringe is the probable source for reworking of 40–20 Ma detrital sanidine and exotic clasts into Oligocene Chuska Sandstone, Miocene Bidahochi Formation, and ultimately into the <2 Ma White Mesa alluvium. The <2 Ma age of the White Mesa alluvium does not support models that the Crooked Ridge paleoriver originated as a late Oligocene to Miocene San Juan River that ultimately carved across the Kaibab uplift. Instead, we interpret the Crooked Ridge paleoriver as a 1.9–1.1 Ma tributary to the Little Colorado River, analogous to modern-day Moenkopi Wash. We reject the “young sediment in old paleovalley” hypothesis based on mapping, stratigraphic, and geomorphic constraints. Deep exhumation and beheading by tributaries of the San Juan and Colorado Rivers caused the Crooked Ridge paleotributary to be abandoned between 1.9 and 1.1 Ma. Thermochronologic data also provide no evidence for, and pose substantial difficulties with, the hypothesis for an earlier (Oligocene–Miocene) Colorado–San Juan paleoriver system that flowed along the Crooked Ridge pathway and carved across the Kaibab uplift.
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Reconstructing drainage pathways in the North Atlantic during the Triassic utilizing heavy minerals, mineral chemistry, and detrital zircon geochronology
Steven D. Andrews; Andrew Morton; Audrey Decou; Dirk Frei
Abstract: In this study, single-grain mineral geochemistry, detrital zircon geochronology, and conventional heavy-mineral analysis are used to elucidate sediment transport pathways that existed in the North Atlantic region during the Triassic. The presence of lateral and axial drainage systems is identified and their source regions are constrained. Axial systems are suggested to have likely delivered sediment sourced in East Greenland (Milne Land–Renland) as far south as the south Viking Graben (>800 km). Furthermore, the data highlight the existence of lateral systems issuing from Western Norway and the Shetland Platform as well as a major east-west–aligned drainage divide positioned adjacent to the Milne Land– Renland region. This divide separated the catchments that flowed north to the Boreal Ocean from those that flowed south into a series of endoreic basins and, ultimately, the Tethys Sea. A further potential drainage divide is identified to the west of Shetland. The data presented and the conclusions reached have major implications for reservoir prediction, as well as correlation, throughout the region. Furthermore, understanding the drainage networks that existed during the Triassic can help constrain paleogeographic reconstructions and provides an important framework for the construction of facies models in the region.
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Subducting oceanic basement roughness impacts on upper-plate tectonic structure and a backstop splay fault zone activated in the southern Kodiak aftershock region of the Mw 9.2, 1964 megathrust rupture, Alaska
Anne Krabbenhoeft; Roland von Huene; John J. Miller; Dirk Klaeschen
Abstract: In 1964, the Alaska margin ruptured in a giant Mw 9.2 megathrust earthquake, the second largest during worldwide instrumental recording. The coseismic slip and aftershock region offshore Kodiak Island was surveyed in 1977–1981 to understand the region’s tectonics. We re-processed multichannel seismic (MCS) field data using current standard Kirchhoff depth migration and/or MCS traveltime tomography. Additional surveys in 1994 added P-wave velocity structure from wide-angle seismic lines and multibeam bathymetry. Published regional gravity, backscatter, and earthquake compilations also became available at this time. Beneath the trench, rough oceanic crust is covered by ~3–5-km-thick sediment. Sediment on the subducting plate modulates the plate interface relief. The imbricate thrust faults of the accreted prism have a complex P-wave velocity structure. Landward, an accelerated increase in P-wave velocities is marked by a backstop splay fault zone (BSFZ) that marks a transition from the prism to the higher rigidity rock beneath the middle and upper slope. Structures associated with this feature may indicate fluid flow. Farther upslope, another fault extends >100 km along strike across the middle slope. Erosion from subducting seamounts leaves embayments in the frontal prism. Plate interface roughness varies along the subduction zone. Beneath the lower and middle slope, 2.5D plate interface images show modest relief, whereas the oceanic basement image is rougher. The 1964 earthquake slip maximum coincides with the leading and/or landward flank of a subducting seamount and the BSFZ. The BSFZ is a potentially active structure and should be considered in tsunami hazard assessments.
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