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Volume 33 Issue 3-4 (March-April 2023)

GSA Today

Article, p. 4-11 | Full Text | PDF

Metamorphic Core Complex Dichotomy in the North American Cordillera Explained by Buoyant Upwelling in Variably Thick Crust

Andrew V. Zuza

Nevada Bureau of Mines and Geology, University of Nevada, Reno, Nevada 89557, USA, azuza@unr.edu

Wenrong Cao

Dept. of Geological Sciences and Engineering, University of Nevada, Reno, Nevada 89557, USA


Metamorphic core complexes (MCC) in the North American Cordillera exhibit a strong dichotomy. Those in the north formed in a thickened orogenic plateau during Paleogene Farallon subduction, are widely spaced (~200 km), and young SW. Conversely, those in the south formed in thinner crust, are closely spaced (~50 km), developed during the Oligocene-Miocene transition to regional transtension, and young NW. Synthesis of magmatism and cooling ages, modeling, and plate reconstructions demonstrate that MCCs could have initiated as buoyant domes driven by lower-crust heating caused by asthenospheric upwelling after Farallon slab rollback. These domes were later exhumed by Miocene extension. The widely spaced Paleogene hinterland domal upwellings and associated mylonites were temporally decoupled from Miocene detachments, manifesting a two-stage development. The closely spaced Oligocene-Miocene foreland MCCs show almost synchronized doming and detachment faulting. The spacing dichotomy of the MCCs reflects the characteristic wavelength of the doming process that was in turn controlled by the thickness and thermal state of the crust.

Manuscript received 12 July 2022. Revised manuscript received 8 Sept. 2022. Manuscript accepted 15 Sept. 2022. Posted 1 Nov. 2022.

© The Geological Society of America, 2022. CC-BY-NC.


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