News Release

New articles for Geosphere posted online in January

Peer-Reviewed Publication

Geological Society of America

Boulder, Colo., USA: GSA’s dynamic online journal, Geosphere, posts articles online regularly. Topics include Farallon plate subduction; 3-D digital outcrop scanning and modeling; and the Cerro Blanco volcanic complex. You can find these articles at .

Numerical models of Farallon plate subduction: Creating and removing a flat slab
Claire A. Currie; Peter Copeland
Abstract: Flat-slab subduction has affected parts of North America, South America, and Asia over the past 250 m.y. In these areas, reconstructions show that the subducting plate became subhorizontal below the continent for ~5 to >30 m.y., followed by foundering of the slab and resumption of steep-angle subduction. Using two-dimensional numerical models, we examine the factors that control the development and removal of a flat slab. Models are based on the Late Cretaceous to Oligocene Farallon flat slab below the southwestern United States. We find that the primary control on subduction geometry is the oceanic plate density structure. Subduction of a buoyant oceanic plateau creates a flat-slab segment that moves inboard at approximately the rate of continental trenchward motion (4–5 cm/yr). Steepening is initiated with eclogitization of the oceanic plateau crust. Once the plateau density exceeds that of the mantle, the slab undergoes rollback through progressive trenchward-directed detachment from the continent at a rate of 2–10 cm/yr. Rollback is enhanced by: (1) weakening of the overlying continental mantle lithosphere, inferred to result from slab-derived hydrous fluids, and (2) a slowdown in plate velocities; the rate and amount of oceanic eclogitization are second-order effects. Conversely, rollback is hindered by a strong oceanic plate and interactions between the slab and high-viscosity lower mantle. For the ~2000-km-long Farallon slab, the Conjugate Shatskey Rise plateau must have remained buoyant for 20–30 m.y. after subduction. This was followed by rapid rollback caused by both plateau eclogitization and continental weakening, leaving an area of thinned and hydrated continental lithosphere.
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Augmenting geological field mapping with real-time, 3-D digital outcrop scanning and modeling
Callum Walter; Fouad Faraj; Georgia Fotopoulos; Alexander Braun
Abstract: Hand scanners are compact, lightweight, and capable of generating 3-D digital models. Although they do not compare to conventional methods (terrestrial laser scanning and photogrammetry) in terms of coverage, resolution, and accuracy, they offer increased mobility, speed, and real-time processing capabilities in the field. This study investigates the use of hand scanners for real-time, 3-D digital outcrop modeling to augment geological field mapping campaigns and highlights the advantages and the limitations. The utility of incorporating hand scanners as an additional tool for augmenting geological mapping is assessed based on 41 outcrop scans from the Gould Lake area, which is located 20 km north of Kingston, Ontario, Canada. The 3-D digital outcrop models gathered included two distinct metamorphic lithologies (marble and quartzofeldspathic gneiss) measuring up to 2.5 m high × 7 m long with an average surface area of 18 m 2. This average scan size would take less than 10 min to capture, result in ~18 million individual points per scan, and provide a spatial resolution of ~1 cm for outcrop features. Throughout the course of the investigation, the main benefit of capturing multiple 3-D digital outcrop models was the ability to integrate this real-time, in situ geospatial, and geologic information across multiple visualization scales. This utility and retention of outcrop-scale geospatial information was shown to enhance the understanding of multi-scale geological relationships.
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Magmatic evolution and architecture of an arc-related, rhyolitic caldera complex: The late Pleistocene to Holocene Cerro Blanco volcanic complex, southern Puna, Argentina
S.L. de Silva; J. Roberge; L. Bardelli; W. Báez; A. Ortiz ...
Abstract: Through the lens of bulk-rock and matrix glass geochemistry, we investigated the magmatic evolution and pre-eruptive architecture of the siliceous magma complex beneath the Cerro Blanco volcanic complex, a Crater Lake–type caldera complex in the southern Puna Plateau of the Central Andes of Argentina. The Cerro Blanco volcanic complex has been the site of two caldera-forming eruptions with volcanic explosivity index (VEI) 6+ that emplaced the ca. 54 ka Campo Piedra Pomez ignimbrite and the ca. 4.2 ka Cerro Blanco ignimbrite. As such, it is the most productive recent explosive volcano in the Central Andes. The most recent eruptions (younger than 4.2 ka) are dominantly postcaldera effusions of crystal-rich domes and associated small explosive pulses. Previous work has demonstrated that andesitic recharge of and mixing with rhyolitic magma occurred at the base of the magma complex, at ~10 km depth. New isotopic data (Sr, Nd, Pb, and O) confirm that the Cerro Blanco volcanic complex rhyolite suite is part of a regional southern Puna, arc-related ignimbrite group. The suite defines a tight group of consanguineous siliceous magmas that serves as a model for the evolution of arc-related, caldera-forming silicic magma systems in the region and elsewhere. These data indicate that the rhyolites originated through limited assimilation of and mixing with upper-crustal lithologies by regional basaltic andesite parent materials, followed by extensive fractional crystallization. Least squares models of major elements in tandem with Rayleigh fractionation models for trace elements reveal that the internal variations among the rhyolites through time can be derived by extensive fractionation of a quartz–two feldspar (granitic minimum) assemblage with limited assimilation. The rare earth element character of local volumes of melt in some samples of the Campo Piedra Pomez ignimbrite basal fallout requires significant fractionation of amphibole. The distinctive major- and trace-element characteristics of bulk rock and matrix of the Campo Piedra Pomez and Cerro Blanco tephras provide useful geochemical fingerprints to facilitate regional tephrochronology. Available data indicate that rhyolites from other neighborhood centers, such as Cueros de Purulla, share bulk chemical characteristics with the Campo Piedra Pomez ignimbrite rhyolites, but they appear to be isotopically distinct. Pre-eruptive storage and final equilibration of the rhyolitic melts were estimated from matrix glass compositions projected onto the haplogranitic system (quartz-albite-orthoclase-H2O) and using rhyolite-MELTS models. These revealed equilibration pressures between 360 and 60 MPa (~10–2 km depth) with lowest pressures in the Holocene eruptions. Model temperatures for the suite ranged from 695 to 790 °C. Integrated together, our results reveal that the Cerro Blanco volcanic complex is a steady-state (low-magmatic-flux), arc-related complex, standing in contrast to the flare-up (high-magmatic-flux) supervolcanoes that dominate the Neogene volcanic stratigraphy. The silicic magmas of the Cerro Blanco volcanic complex were derived more directly from mafic and intermediate precursors through extensive fractional crystallization, albeit with some mixing and assimilation of local basement. Geochemical models and pressure-temperature estimates indicate that significant volumes of remnant cumulates of felsic and intermediate composition should dominate the polybaric magma complex beneath the Cerro Blanco volcanic complex, which gradually shallowed through time. Evolution to the most silicic compositions and final equilibration of some of the postcaldera domes occurred during ascent and decompression at depths less than 2 km. Our work connotes an incrementally accumulated (over at least 54 k.y.), upper-crustal pluton beneath the Cerro Blanco volcanic complex between 2 and 10 km depth. The composition of this pluton is predicted to be dominantly granitic, with deeper parts being granodioritic to tonalitic. The progressive solidification and eventual contraction of the magma complex may account for the decades of deflation that has characterized Cerro Blanco. The presently active geothermal anomaly and hydrothermal springs indicate the Cerro Blanco volcanic complex remains potentially active.
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Geochemical indications for the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM) and Eocene Thermal Maximum 2 (ETM-2) hyperthermals in terrestrial sediments of the Canadian Arctic
Lutz Reinhardt; Werner von Gosen; Andreas Lückge; Martin Blumenberg; Jennifer M. Galloway ...
Abstract: During the late Paleocene to early Eocene, clastic fluvial sediments and coals were deposited in northern high latitudes as part of the Marga­ret Formation at Stenkul Fiord (Ellesmere Island, Nunavut, Canada). Syn-sedimentary tectonic movements of the Eurekan deformation continu­ously affected these terrestrial sediments. Different volcanic ash layers occur, and unconformities subdivide the deposits into four sedimentary units. Rare vertebrate fossils indicate an early Eocene (Graybullian) age for the upper part of the Stenkul Fiord outcrop. Here, we present carbon isotope data of bulk coal, related organic-rich mud and siltstones, a plant leaf wax-derived alkane, and additional plant remains. These data provide a complete carbon isotope record of one stratigraphic section with defined unconformity positions and in relation to other Eurekan deformation features. A previously dated ash layer MA-1 provided a U-Pb zircon age of 53.7 Ma and is used as a stratigraphic tie point, together with a discrete negative carbon isotope excursion found above MA-1 in a closely sampled coal seam. The excursion is identified as the likely expression of the I-1 hyperthermal event. Based on our isotope data that reflect the early Eocene dynamics of the carbon cycle, this tie point, and previous paleontological constraints from vertebrate fossils, the locations of the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM) and Eocene Thermal Maximum 2 (ETM-2) hyperthermals and their extent along the complete section are herein identified. Within the intervals of the PETM and ETM-2 hyperthermal events, increasing amounts of clastic sediments reached the site toward the respective end of the event. This is interpreted as a response of the fluvial depositional system to an intensified hydrological system during the hyperthermal events. Our study establishes an enhanced stratigraphic framework allowing for the calcula­tion of average sedimentation rates of different intervals and considerations on the completeness of the stratigraphic record. As one of the few high-latitude outcrops of early Eocene terrestrial sediments, the Stenkul Fiord location offers further possibilities to study the effects of extreme warming events in the Paleogene.
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The building blocks of igneous sheet intrusions: Insights from 3-D seismic reflection data
Jonas Köpping; Craig Magee; Alexander R. Cruden; Christopher A.-L. Jackson; James R. Norcliffe
Abstract: The propagating margins of igneous sills (and other sheet intrusions) may divide into laterally and/or vertically separated sections, which later inflate and coalesce. These components elongate parallel to and thus record the magma flow direction, and they can form either due to fracture segmentation (i.e., “segments”) or brittle and/or non-brittle deformation of the host rock (i.e., “magma fingers”). Seismic reflection data can image entire sills or sill-complexes in 3-D, and their resolution is often sufficient to allow us to identify these distinct elongate components and thereby map magma flow patterns over entire intrusion networks. However, seismic resolution is limited, so we typically cannot discern the centimeter- to meter-scale host rock deformation structures that would allow the origin of these components to be interpreted. Here, we introduce a new term that defines the components (i.e., “elements”) of sheet-like igneous intrusions without linking their description to emplacement mechanisms. Using 3-D seismic reflection data from offshore NW Australia, we quantify the 3-D geometry of these elements and their connectors within two sills and discuss how their shape may relate to emplacement processes. Based on seismic attribute analyses and our measurements of their 3-D geometry, we conclude that the mapped elements likely formed through non-elastic-brittle and/or non-brittle deformation ahead of the advancing sill tip, which implies they are magma fingers. We show that thickness varies across sills, and across distinct elements, which we infer to represent flow localization and subsequent thickening of restricted areas. The quantification of element geometries is useful for comparisons between different subsurface and field-based data sets that span a range of host rock types and tectonic settings. This, in turn, facilitates the testing of magma emplacement mechanisms and predictions from numerical and physical analogue experiments.
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Tectonostratigraphy and major structures of the Georgian Greater Caucasus: Implications for structural architecture, along-strike continuity, and orogen evolution
Charles C. Trexler; Eric Cowgill; Nathan A. Niemi; Dylan A. Vasey; Tea Godoladze
Abstract: Although the Greater Caucasus Mountains have played a central role in absorbing late Cenozoic convergence between the Arabian and Eurasian plates, the orogenic architecture and the ways in which it accommodates modern shortening remain debated. Here, we addressed this problem using geologic mapping along two transects across the southern half of the western Greater Caucasus to reveal a suite of regionally coherent stratigraphic packages that are juxtaposed across a series of thrust faults, which we call the North Georgia fault system. From south to north within this system, stratigraphically repeated ~5–10-km-thick thrust sheets show systematically increasing bedding dip angles (<30° in the south to subvertical in the core of the range). Likewise, exhumation depth increases toward the core of the range, based on low-temperature thermochronologic data and metamorphic grade of exposed rocks. In contrast, active shortening in the modern system is accommodated, at least in part, by thrust faults along the southern margin of the orogen. Facilitated by the North Georgia fault system, the western Greater Caucasus Mountains broadly behave as an in-sequence, southward-propagating imbricate thrust fan, with older faults within the range progressively abandoned and new structures forming to accommodate shortening as the thrust propagates southward. We suggest that the single-fault-centric “Main Caucasus thrust” paradigm is no longer appropriate, as it is a system of faults, the North Georgia fault system, that dominates the architecture of the western Greater Caucasus Mountains.
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