News Release

New articles for Geosphere posted online in September

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 western Mexican arc and northern Walker Lane. You can find these articles at


Heterogenous late Miocene extension in the northern Walker Lane (California-Nevada, USA) demonstrates vertically decoupled crustal extension
Michael C. Say; Andrew V. Zuza
The spatial distribution and kinematics of intracontinental deformation provide insight into the dominant mode of continental tectonics: rigid-body motion versus continuum flow. The discrete San Andreas fault defines the western North America plate boundary, but transtensional deformation is distributed hundreds of kilometers eastward across the Walker Lane–Basin and Range provinces. In particular, distributed Basin and Range extension has been encroaching westward onto the relatively stable Sierra Nevada block since the Miocene, but the timing and style of distributed deformation overprinting the stable Sierra Nevada crust remains poorly resolved. Here we bracket the timing, mag­nitude, and kinematics of overprinting Walker Lane and Basin and Range deformation in the Pine Nut Mountains, Nevada (USA), which are the western­most structural and topographic expression of the Basin and Range, with new geologic mapping and 40Ar/39Ar geochronology. Structural mapping suggests that north-striking normal faults developed during the initiation of Basin and Range extension and were later reactivated as northeast-striking oblique-slip faults following the onset of Walker Lane transtensional deformation. Conformable volcanic and sedimentary rocks, with new ages spanning ca. 14.2 Ma to 6.8 Ma, were tilted 30°–36° northwest by east-dipping normal faults. This relationship demonstrates that dip-slip deformation initiated after ca. 6.8 Ma. A retrodeformed cross section across the range suggests that the range experienced 14% extension. Subsequently, Walker Lane transtension initiated, and clockwise rotation of the Carson domain may have been accommodated by northeast-striking left-slip faults. Our work better defines strain patterns at the western extent of the Basin and Range province across an approximately 150-km-long east-west transect that reveals domains of low strain (~15%) in the Carson Range–Pine Nut Mountains and Gillis Range surrounding high-magnitude extension (~150%–180%) in the Singatse and Wassuk Ranges. There is no evidence for irregular crustal thickness variations across this same transect—either in the Mesozoic, prior to extension, or today—which suggests that strain must be accommodated differently at decoupled crustal levels to result in smooth, homogenous crustal thickness values despite the significantly heterogeneous extensional evolution. This example across an ~150 km transect demonstrates that the use of upper-crust extension estimates to constrain pre-extension crustal thickness, assuming pure shear as commonly done for the Mesozoic Nevadaplano orogenic plateau, may not be reliable.
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Origin of alkali olivine basalts and hawaiites in the western Mexican arc: Evidence of rapid phenocryst growth and magma mixing during ascent along fractures
Juliana Mesa; Rebecca A. Lange
A detailed petrological study is presented to constrain the origin of a suite of alkali olivine basalt and hawaiite (>5 wt% MgO) lavas that were erupted in a rift zone within the western Mexican arc (Trans-Mexican Volcanic Belt), adjacent to the Sangangüey andesitic stratovolcano, together with more evolved lavas (mugearites and benmoreites; <5 wt% MgO). As previously documented in the literature, the Sangangüey mafic lavas are devoid of any arc geochemical signature, despite their location within an arc. In this study, a new olivine-melt thermometer/hygrometer, based on the partition­ing behavior of Ni2+ and Mg2+, was applied to the Sangangüey basalts (SB). The results show that the high-MgO (>9 wt%) SB crystallized at higher temperatures and lower melt-water contents (0–1.3 wt%) compared to high-MgO arc basalts (≤5.7 wt% H2O) erupted in the west-central Mexican arc. The Sangangüey lavas with 5–8 wt% MgO display evidence of mixing between high-MgO alkali olivine basalts and low-MgO mugearites. It is proposed that the unique composition of the mugearites (i.e., low SiOcontents and elevated FeO and TiOcontents) is the result of partial melting of mafic lower crust driven by the influx of high-MgO intraplate basalts under relatively hot, dry, and reduced conditions. On the basis of crystal textures and compositional zoning patterns, it is shown that both phenocryst growth and magma mixing occurred rapidly, most likely during ascent along fractures, and not slowly during prolonged storage in a crustal magma chamber.
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GEOSPHERE articles are available at Representatives of the media may obtain complimentary copies of GEOSPHERE articles by contacting Kea Giles at the address above. Please discuss articles of interest with the authors before publishing stories on their work, and please refer to GEOSPHERE in articles published. Non-media requests for articles may be directed to GSA Sales and Service,


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