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Geological evolution of two crustal scale shear zones. Part I. The Rand thrust complex, northwestern Mojave Desert, California. Part II. The Magdalena metamorphic core complex, north central Sonora, Mexico

Citation

Nourse, Jonathan Alan (1989) Geological evolution of two crustal scale shear zones. Part I. The Rand thrust complex, northwestern Mojave Desert, California. Part II. The Magdalena metamorphic core complex, north central Sonora, Mexico. Dissertation (Ph.D.), California Institute of Technology. http://resolver.caltech.edu/CaltechTHESIS:02112014-112136459

Abstract

The geology and structure of two crustal scale shear zones were studied to understand the partitioning of strain within intracontinental orogenic belts. Movement histories and regional tectonic implications are deduced from observational data. The two widely separated study areas bear the imprint of intense Late Mesozoic through Middle Cenozoic tectonic activity. A regional transition from Late Cretaceous-Early Tertiary plutonism, metamorphism, and shortening strain to Middle Tertiary extension and magmatism is preserved in each area, with contrasting environments and mechanisms. Compressional phases of this tectonic history are better displayed in the Rand Mountains, whereas younger extensional structures dominate rock fabrics in the Magdalena area.

In the northwestern Mojave desert, the Rand Thrust Complex reveals a stack of four distinctive tectonic plates offset along the Garlock Fault. The lowermost plate, Rand Schist, is composed of greenschist facies metagraywacke, metachert, and metabasalt. Rand Schist is structurally overlain by Johannesburg Gneiss (= garnet-amphibolite grade orthogneisses, marbles and quartzites), which in turn is overlain by a Late Cretaceous hornblende-biotite granodiorite. Biotite granite forms the fourth and highest plate. Initial assembly of the tectonic stack involved a Late Cretaceous? south or southwest vergent overthrusting event in which Johannesburg Gneiss was imbricated and attenuated between Rand Schist and hornblende-biotite granodiorite. Thrusting postdated metamorphism and deformation of the lower two plates in separate environments. A post-kinematic stock, the Late Cretaceous Randsburg Granodiorite, intrudes deep levels of the complex and contains xenoliths of both Rand Schist and mylonitized Johannesburg? gneiss. Minimum shortening implied by the map patterns is 20 kilometers.

Some low angle faults of the Rand Thrust Complex formed or were reactivated between Late Cretaceous and Early Miocene time. South-southwest directed mylonites derived from Johannesburg Gneiss are commonly overprinted by less penetrative north-northeast vergent structures. Available kinematic information at shallower structural levels indicates that late disturbance(s) culminated in northward transport of the uppermost plate. Persistence of brittle fabrics along certain structural horizons suggests a possible association of late movement(s) with regionally known detachment faults. The four plates were juxtaposed and significant intraplate movements had ceased prior to Early Miocene emplacement of rhyolite porphyry dikes.

In the Magdalena region of north central Sonora, components of a pre-Middle Cretaceous stratigraphy are used as strain markers in tracking the evolution of a long lived orogenic belt. Important elements of the tectonic history include: (1) Compression during the Late Cretaceous and Early Tertiary, accompanied by plutonism, metamorphism, and ductile strain at depth, and thrust driven? syntectonic sedimentation at the surface. (2) Middle Tertiary transition to crustal extension, initially recorded by intrusion of leucogranites, inflation of the previously shortened middle and upper crustal section, and surface volcanism. (3) Gravity induced development of a normal sense ductile shear zone at mid crustal levels, with eventual detachment and southwestward displacement of the upper crustal stratigraphy by Early Miocene time.

Elucidation of the metamorphic core complex evolution just described was facilitated by fortuitous preservation of a unique assemblage of rocks and structures. The "type" stratigraphy utilized for regional correlation and strain analysis includes a Jurassic volcanic arc assemblage overlain by an Upper Jurassic-Lower Cretaceous quartz pebble conglomerate, in turn overlain by marine strata with fossiliferous Aptian-Albian limestones. The Jurassic strata, comprised of (a) rhyolite porphyries interstratified with quartz arenites, (b) rhyolite cobble conglomerate, and (c) intrusive granite porphyries, are known to rest on Precambrian basement north and east of the study area. The quartz pebble conglomerate is correlated with the Glance Conglomerate of southeastern Arizona and northeastern Sonora. The marine sequence represents part of an isolated arm? of the Bisbee Basin.

Crosscutting structural relationships between the pre-Middle Cretaceous supracrustal section, younger plutons, and deformational fabrics allow the tectonic sequence to be determined. Earliest phases of a Late Cretaceous-Early Tertiary orogeny are marked by emplacement of the 78 ± 3 Ma Guacomea Granodiorite (U/Pb zircon, Anderson et al., 1980) as a sill into deep levels of the layered Jurassic series. Subsequent regional metamorphism and ductile strain is recorded by a penetrative schistosity and lineation, and east-west trending folds. These fabrics are intruded by post-kinematic Early Tertiary? two mica granites. At shallower crustal levels, the orogeny is represented by north directed thrust faulting, formation of a large intermontane basin, and development of a pronounced unconformity. A second important phase of ductile strain followed Middle Tertiary? emplacement of leucogranites as sills and northwest trending dikes into intermediate levels of the deformed section (surficial volcanism was also active during this transitional period to regional extension). Gravitational instabilities resulting from crustal swelling via intrusion and thermal expansion led to development of a ductile shear zone within the stratigraphic horizon occupied by a laterally extensive leucogranite sill. With continued extension, upper crustal brittle normal faults (detachment faults) enhanced the uplift and tectonic denudation of this mylonite zone, ultimately resulting in southwestward displacement of the upper crustal stratigraphy.

Strains associated with the two ductile deformation events have been successfully partitioned through a multifaceted analysis. R_f/Ø measurements on various markers from the "type" stratigraphy allow a gradient representing cumulative strain since Middle Cretaceous time to be determined. From this gradient, noncoaxial strains accrued since emplacement of the leucogranites may be removed. Irrotational components of the postleucogranite strain are measured from quartz grain shapes in deformed granites; rotational components (shear strains) are determined from S-C fabrics and from restoration of rotated dike and vein networks. Structural observations and strain data are compatable with a deformation path of: (1) coaxial strain (pure shear?), followed by (2) injection of leucogranites as dikes (perpendicular to the minimum principle stress) and sills (parallel to the minimum principle stress), then (3) southwest directed simple shear. Modeling the late strain gradient as a simple shear zone permits a minimum displacement of 10 kilometers on the Magdalena mylonite zone/detachment fault system. Removal of the Middle Tertiary noncoaxial strains yields a residual (or pre-existing) strain gradient representative of the Late Cretaceous-Early Tertiary deformation. Several partially destrained cross sections, restored to the time of leucogranite emplacement, illustrate the idea that the upper plate of the core complex bas been detached from a region of significant topographic relief. 50% to 100% bulk extension across a 50 kilometer wide corridor is demonstrated.

Late Cenozoic tectonics of the Magdalena region are dominated by Basin and Range style faulting. Northeast and north-northwest trending high angle normal faults have interacted to extend the crust in an east-west direction. Net extension for this period is minor (10% to 15%) in comparison to the Middle Tertiary detachment related extensional episode.

Item Type:Thesis (Dissertation (Ph.D.))
Subject Keywords:Geology
Degree Grantor:California Institute of Technology
Division:Geological and Planetary Sciences
Major Option:Geology
Thesis Availability:Restricted to Caltech community only
Research Advisor(s):
  • Silver, Leon T.
Thesis Committee:
  • Unknown, Unknown
Defense Date:18 May 1989
Record Number:CaltechTHESIS:02112014-112136459
Persistent URL:http://resolver.caltech.edu/CaltechTHESIS:02112014-112136459
Default Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:8067
Collection:CaltechTHESIS
Deposited By: Benjamin Perez
Deposited On:11 Feb 2014 21:37
Last Modified:11 Feb 2014 22:03

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