Extensional tectonics of the Cordilleran foreland fold and thrust belt and the Jurassic-Cretaceous Great Valley forearc basin
AdvisorJohnson, Roy A.
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
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AbstractFollowing cessation of contractional deformation, the Sevier orogenic belt collapsed and spread west during a middle Eocene to middle Miocene (∼48-20 Ma) episode of crustal extension coeval with formation of metamorphic core complexes and regional magmatism. The sedimentary and structural record of this event is a network of half-grabens that extends from southern Canada to at least central Utah. Extensional structures superposed on this fold-thrust belt are rooted in the physical stratigraphy, structural relief and sole faults of preexisting thrust-fold structures. Commonly, the same detachment surfaces were used to accommodate both contractional and extensional deformation. Foreland and hinterland extensional elements of the Cordillera that are normally widely separated are uniquely collocated in central Utah where the thrust belt straddles the Archean-Proterozoic Cheyenne belt crustal suture. Here, the Charleston-Nebo allochthon, an immense leading-edge structural element of the Sevier belt collapsed during late Eocene-middle Miocene time when the sole thrust was extensionally reactivated by faults of the Deer Creek detachment fault system and the allochthon was transported at least 5-7 km back to the west. Concurrently, the north margin of the allochthon was warped by flexural-isostatic rise of a Cheyenne belt crustal welt and its footwall was intruded by crustal melts of the Wasatch igneous belt. Collectively, these elements comprise the Cottonwood metamorphic core complex. Extensional processes were also important in the formation of the Jurassic-Cretaceous Great Valley forearc basin. Advocates of a thrust-wedge hypothesis argued that this forearc experienced prolonged Jurassic-Cretaceous contraction and proposed that northwest-southeast-striking fault systems were evidence of a west-dipping blind Great Valley-Franciscan sole thrust and related backthrusts. Based on interpretation of seismic reflection, borehole, map and stratographic data, I propose that these faults and associated bedding geometries are folded synsedimentary normal faults and half-grabens. Thus, late-stage diastrophic mechanisms are not required to interpret a forearc that owes much of its present-day bedding architecture to extensional processes coeval with deposition.
Degree ProgramGraduate College