skip to main content


This content will become publicly available on November 1, 2024

Title: Lower Crustal Rheology Controls Strain Partitioning and Mode of Intracontinental Deformation
Abstract

The factors that control strain partitioning along plate boundaries and within continental interiors remains poorly resolved. Plate convergence may be accommodated via distributed crustal shortening or discrete crustal‐scale strike‐slip faulting, but what controls these differing modes of deformation is debated. Here we address this question by examining the actively deforming regions that surround the Tarim Basin in central Asia, where deformation is uniquely partitioned into predominately strike‐slip faults in the east and distributed fold‐thrust belts in the west to accommodate Cenozoic India‐Asia plate convergence. We present integrated geological and geophysical observations to elucidate patterns in crustal deformation and compositional structure in and around the Tarim Basin. The thrust‐dominated western Tarim Basin correlates with a strongly‐magnetic lower crust, whereas strike‐slip faulting along the eastern margins of the Tarim Basin lack such magnetic signals. We suggest that the lower crust of the western Tarim is more mafic and stronger than in the east, which impacts intra‐plate strain partitioning. A stronger lower crust results in vertical decoupling to drive mid‐crust horizontal detachments and facilitate thrust faulting, whereas a more homogenized crust favored vertical transcrustal strike‐slip faulting. These rheological differences likely originated from the impingement of the Permian Tarim plume focused in the west. A comparison with the Longmen Shan of eastern Tibetan Plateau reveals remarkably similar strain partitioning that correlates with variations in foreland rheology. Our results highlight how variations in lower‐crust viscosity impact strain partitioning in an intra‐plate setting and how plume processes exert a strong control on later continental tectonic processes.

 
more » « less
Award ID(s):
1914501
NSF-PAR ID:
10473408
Author(s) / Creator(s):
; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ; ;
Publisher / Repository:
American Geophysical Union
Date Published:
Journal Name:
Tectonics
Volume:
42
Issue:
11
ISSN:
0278-7407
Format(s):
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. null (Ed.)
    Existing models of intracontinental deformation have focused on plate-like rigid body motion v. viscous-flow-like distributed deformation. To elucidate how plate convergence is accommodated by intracontinental strike-slip faulting and block rotation within a fold–thrust belt, we examine the Cenozoic structural framework of the central Qilian Shan of northeastern Tibet, where the NW-striking, right-slip Elashan and Riyueshan faults terminate at the WNW-striking, left-slip Haiyuan and Kunlun faults. Field- and satellite-based observations of discrete right-slip fault segments, releasing bends, horsetail termination splays and off-fault normal faulting suggest that the right-slip faults accommodate block rotation and distributed west–east crustal stretching between the Haiyuan and Kunlun faults. Luminescence dating of offset terrace risers along the Riyueshan fault yields a Quaternary slip rate of c. 1.1 mm a −1 , which is similar to previous estimates. By integrating our results with regional deformation constraints, we propose that the pattern of Cenozoic deformation in northeastern Tibet is compatible with west–east crustal stretching/lateral displacement, non-rigid off-fault deformation and broad clockwise rotation and bookshelf faulting, which together accommodate NE–SW India–Asia convergence. In this model, the faults represent strain localization that approximates continuum deformation during regional clockwise lithospheric flow against the rigid Eurasian continent. Supplementary material: Luminescence dating procedures and protocols is available at https://doi.org/10.17605/OSF.IO/CR9MN Thematic collection: This article is part of the Fold-and-thrust belts and associated basins collection available at: https://www.lyellcollection.org/cc/fold-and-thrust-belts 
    more » « less
  2. Abstract

    Models for continental lithospheric strength are not well resolved due to a lack of direct measurement; however, numerical simulations provide means for evaluating the physicality of endmember cases. We simulate the 3‐D dynamics of continental lithosphere within the India‐Eurasia collision zone and compare results to observed deformation. Three‐dimensional lithospheric deformation is approximated with creeping flow in a layered spherical cap. We partition strength with depth according to endmember models, using laterally varying estimates of vertically averaged effective viscosity to constrain the absolute values of 3‐D viscosity in the upper crustal and mantle layers. Comparisons between dynamic solutions and observed geophysical data indicate: (1) Deformation within the subducted Indian slab is required to simulate uplift along the entire Himalayan front with 1022 Pa·s representing an upper bound for slab strength. (2) Along‐strike variations in crustal strength are necessary to match surface observations. (3) Balance of gravitational forces acting on Tibetan lithosphere with a weak lower crust are able to replicate observed vertical deformation patterns. A west‐to‐east decrease in the lateral extent of the underthrust Indian slab is required for reproducing observed surface motions in Tibet. Geodynamic simulations yield subsidence in southern Qiangtang and Southeast Asia consistent with global positioning system‐derived dilatation. We note a trade‐off between upper crustal strength and surface velocity rotation around the Eastern Himalayan syntaxis. Simulations with stronger upper crust replicate velocities in western Tibet but not the east, while those with weaker upper crust produce observed rotation in eastern Tibet but overpredict magnitudes to the west.

     
    more » « less
  3. null (Ed.)
    SUMMARY The Eastern Mediterranean is the most seismically active region in Europe due to the complex interactions of the Arabian, African, and Eurasian tectonic plates. Deformation is achieved by faulting in the brittle crust, distributed flow in the viscoelastic lower-crust and mantle, and Hellenic subduction, but the long-term partitioning of these mechanisms is still unknown. We exploit an extensive suite of geodetic observations to build a kinematic model connecting strike-slip deformation, extension, subduction, and shear localization across Anatolia and the Aegean Sea by mapping the distribution of slip and strain accumulation on major active geological structures. We find that tectonic escape is facilitated by a plate-boundary-like, trans-lithospheric shear zone extending from the Gulf of Evia to the Turkish-Iranian Plateau that underlies the surface trace of the North Anatolian Fault. Additional deformation in Anatolia is taken up by a series of smaller-scale conjugate shear zones that reach the upper mantle, the largest of which is located beneath the East Anatolian Fault. Rapid north–south extension in the western part of the system, driven primarily by Hellenic Trench retreat, is accommodated by rotation and broadening of the North Anatolian mantle shear zone from the Sea of Marmara across the north Aegean Sea, and by a system of distributed transform faults and rifts including the rapidly extending Gulf of Corinth in central Greece and the active grabens of western Turkey. Africa–Eurasia convergence along the Hellenic Arc occurs at a median rate of 49.8 mm yr–1 in a largely trench-normal direction except near eastern Crete where variably oriented slip on the megathrust coincides with mixed-mode and strike-slip deformation in the overlying accretionary wedge near the Ptolemy–Pliny–Strabo trenches. Our kinematic model illustrates the competing roles the North Anatolian mantle shear zone, Hellenic Trench, overlying mantle wedge, and active crustal faults play in accommodating tectonic indentation, slab rollback and associated Aegean extension. Viscoelastic flow in the lower crust and upper mantle dominate the surface velocity field across much of Anatolia and a clear transition to megathrust-related slab pull occurs in western Turkey, the Aegean Sea and Greece. Crustal scale faults and the Hellenic wedge contribute only a minor amount to the large-scale, regional pattern of Eastern Mediterranean interseismic surface deformation. 
    more » « less
  4. null (Ed.)
    Abstract The high strength of the Tarim Basin (northwestern China) lithosphere, widely regarded as a Precambrian craton, is evidenced by its resistance to Cenozoic deformation in the Himalayan-Tibetan orogen. However, Neoproterozoic suturing and early Paleozoic shortening within the Tarim Basin suggest that its rigidity is a relatively recent phenomenon with unknown cause. We reprocessed high-resolution magnetic data that show a 300–400-km-diameter radial pattern of linear anomalies emanating from a central region characterized by mixed positive-negative anomalies. We suggest that this pattern was generated by the previously hypothesized Permian (ca. 300–270 Ma) plume beneath the Tarim Basin. Constrained by published geochemical and geochronological data from plume-related igneous rocks, we propose that the ∼30 m.y. Permian plume activity resulted in a more viscous, depleted, thicker, dehydrated, and low-density mantle lithosphere. The resulting stronger lithosphere deflected strain from the Cenozoic India-Asia convergence around Tarim Basin, including Pamir overthrusting to the northwest and Altyn Tagh left-slip displacement to the northeast, thus shaping the geometry of the Himalayan-Tibetan orogen. 
    more » « less
  5. Abstract 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. 
    more » « less