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ABSTRACT

Ion microprobe U-Pb zircon rim ages from 39 samples from across the accreted terranes of the central Blue Ridge, eastward across the Inner Piedmont, delimit the timing and spatial extent of superposed metamorphism in the southern Appalachian orogen. Metamorphic zircon rims are 10–40 µm wide, mostly unzoned, and dark gray to black or bright white in cathodoluminescence, and truncate and/or embay interior oscillatory zoning. Black unzoned and rounded or ovoid-shaped metamorphic zircon morphologies also occur. Th/U values range from 0.01 to 1.4, with the majority of ratios less than 0.1. Results of 206Pb/238U ages, ±2% discordant, range from 481 to 305 Ma. Clustering within these data reveals that the Blue Ridge and Inner Piedmont terranes were affected by three tectonothermal events: (1) 462–448 Ma (Taconic); (2) 395–340 Ma (Acadian and Neoacadian); and (3) 335–322 Ma, related to the early phase of the Alleghanian orogeny. By combining zircon rim ages with metamorphic isograds and other published isotopic ages, we identify the thermal architecture of the southern Appalachian orogen: juxtaposed and superposed metamorphic domains have younger ages to the east related to the marginward addition of terranes, and these domains can serve as a proxy to delimit terrane accretion. Most 462–448 Ma ages occur in the western and central Blue Ridge and define a continuous progression from greenschist to granulite facies that identifies the intact Taconic core. The extent of 462–448 Ma metamorphism indicates that the central Blue Ridge and Tugaloo terranes were accreted to the western Blue Ridge during the Taconic orogeny. Zircon rim ages in the Inner Piedmont span almost 100 m.y., with peaks at 395–385, 376–340, and 335–322 Ma, and delimit the Acadian-Neoacadian and Alleghanian metamorphic core. The timing and distribution of metamorphism in the Inner Piedmont are consistent with the Devonian to Mississippian oblique collision of the Carolina superterrane, followed by an early phase of Alleghanian metamorphism at 335–322 Ma (temperature >500 °C). The eastern Blue Ridge contains evidence of three possible tectonothermal events: ~460 Ma, 376–340 Ma, and ~335 Ma. All of the crystalline terranes of the Blue Ridge–Piedmont megathrust sheet were affected by Alleghanian metamorphism and deformation.

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