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Title: Magmatic Surge Requires Two-Stage Model for the Laramide Orogeny
The Laramide orogeny is a pivotal time in the geological development of western North America, but its driving mechanism is controversial. Most prominent models suggest this event was caused by the collision of an oceanic plateau with the Southern California Batholith (SCB) which caused the angle of subduction beneath the continent to shallow and led to shut-down of the arc. Here, we show that magmatism was surging in the SCB from 90 to 70 Ma, the lower crust was hot, and cooling occurred after 75 Ma. These data contradict plateau underthrusting and flat-slab subduction as the driving mechanism for early Laramide deformation. We propose that the Laramide orogeny is a two-stage event consisting of: 1) an arc ‘flare-up’ phase in the SCB from 90-75 Ma; and 2) a widespread mountain building phase in the Laramide foreland belt from 75-50 Ma that is linked to subduction of an oceanic plateau.  more » « less
Award ID(s):
2138734
NSF-PAR ID:
10415230
Author(s) / Creator(s):
; ; ; ; ; ;
Date Published:
Journal Name:
Nature communications
ISSN:
2041-1723
Format(s):
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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  1. Abstract

    The Laramide orogeny is a pivotal time in the geological development of western North America, but its driving mechanism is controversial. Most prominent models suggest this event was caused by the collision of an oceanic plateau with the Southern California Batholith (SCB) which caused the angle of subduction beneath the continent to shallow and led to shut-down of the arc. Here, we use over 280 zircon and titanite Pb/U ages from the SCB to establish the timing and duration of magmatism, metamorphism and deformation. We show that magmatism was surging in the SCB from 90 to 70 Ma, the lower crust was hot, and cooling occurred after 75 Ma. These data contradict plateau underthrusting and flat-slab subduction as the driving mechanism for early Laramide deformation. We propose that the Laramide orogeny is a two-stage event consisting of: 1) an arc ‘flare-up’ phase in the SCB from 90-75 Ma; and 2) a widespread mountain building phase in the Laramide foreland belt from 75-50 Ma that is linked to subduction of an oceanic plateau.

     
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  2. The beginning of the Laramide orogeny is a pivotal time in the geological development of the western United States, but the driving mechanism responsible for mountain building, basin formation and ore mineralization is controversial. Most prominent models suggest this event was caused by the collision of an oceanic plateau with the Southern California Batholith sector of western North America at ca. 88 Ma which caused the angle of subduction beneath the continent to shallow. This subhorizontal (flat) subduction is thought to have led to shut-down of the arc, crustal cooling, and the formation of deep, basement-involved thrust faults that penetrated far into the continental interior. In contrast to these predictions, we show that the Southern California Batholith experienced a magmatic surge from 90 to 70 Ma, the lower crust was hot (835-750°C) and partially molten, and cooling occurred after 75 Ma. These data contradict plateau underthrusting as the driving mechanism for early Laramide deformation at 90-80 Ma; therefore, the Laramide orogeny cannot have been initiated by flat-slab subduction. We propose that the Laramide orogeny is best explained as a two-stage orogeny consisting of: 1) an arc magmatic ‘flare-up’ phase associated with sinistral-reverse ductile shearing in the Southern California Batholith from at 90-75 Ma and coeval dextral-transpression north of the Garlock fault, and 2) a widespread mountain building phase in the Laramide foreland belt from 75-50 Ma. Only that latter phase is linked to flat-slab subduction beneath the Southern California Batholith. 
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  3. Sun, Weeding (Ed.)
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  4. We present >90 new igneous and metamorphic zircon and titanite petrochronology ages from the eastern Transverse Ranges of the Southern California Batholith (SCB) to investigate magmatic and tectonic processes in the frontal arc during postulated initiation of Late Cretaceous shallow-slab subduction. Our data cover >4000 km2 in the eastern Transverse Ranges and include data from Mesozoic plutons in the Mt. Pinos, Alamo Mountain, San Gabriel Mountain blocks, and the Eastern Peninsular mylonite zone. Igneous zircon data reveal 4 discrete pulses of magmatism at 258-220 Ma, 160-142 Ma, 120-118 Ma, and 90-66 Ma. The latter pulse involved a widespread magmatic surge in the SCB and coincided with garnet-granulite to upper amphibolite-facies metamorphism and partial melting in the lower crust (Cucamonga terrane, eastern San Gabriel Mountains). In this region, metamorphic zircons in gneisses, migmatites and calc-silicates record high-temperature metamorphism from 91 to 74 Ma at 9–7 kbars and 800–730°C. The Late Cretaceous arc flare-up was temporally and spatially associated with the development of a regionally extensive oblique sinistral-reverse shear system that includes from north to south (present-day) the Tumamait shear zone (Mt. Pinos), the Alamo Mountain-Piru Creek shear zone, the Black Belt shear zone (Cucamonga terrane), and the Eastern Peninsular Ranges shear zone. Syn-kinematic, metamorphic titanite ages in the Tumamait shear zone range from 77–74 Ma at 720–700°C, titanites in the Black Belt mylonite zone give an age of 83 Ma, and those in the eastern Peninsular Ranges mylonite zone give ages of 89–86 Ma at 680–670°C. These data suggest a progressive northward younging of ductile shearing at amphibolite- to upper-amphibolite-facies conditions from 88 to 74 Ma, which overlaps with the timing of the Late Cretaceous arc flare-up event. Collectively, these data indicate that arc magmatism, high-temperature metamorphism, and intra-arc contraction were active in the SCB throughout the Late Cretaceous. These observations appear to contradict existing models for the termination of magmatism and refrigeration of the arc due to underthrusting of the conjugate Shatsky rise starting at ca. 88 Ma. We suggest that shallow-slab subduction likely postdates ca. 74 Ma when high-temperature metamorphism ceased in the SCB. 
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