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Abstract

The tectonic evolution of the Oman Mountains as of the Neoproterozoic begins with a major extensional event, the Neoproterozoic Abu Mahara rifting. It was followed by the compressional Nabitah event, still during the Neoproterozoic, in Oman but possibly not in the study area. During the earliest Cambrian, the Jabal Akhdar area was affected by the Cadomian Orogeny, marked by NE--SW shortening. It is unclear, whether the Saih Hatat area was exposed to the Cadomian deformation, too. Still during the lower Cambrian, the Angudan Orogeny followed, characterized by NW--SE shortening. An episode of rifting affected the Saih Hatat area during the mid-Ordovician. During the mid-Carboniferous, both dome areas were deformed by tilting and large-scale open folding in the course of the ‘Hercynian’ event. As a consequence, a major unconformity formed. As another Late Paleozoic event, the Permian break-up of Pangaea and subsequent formation of the Hawasina ocean basin, are recorded in the Southeastern Oman Mountains. As a result, a passive margin formed which existed until the mid-Cretaceous, characterized by deposition of mostly shelfal carbonates. This interval of general tectonic quiescence was interrupted during the early Jurassic by uplift and tilting of the Arabian Platform. The platform collapsed during the late Cretaceous, related to the arrival of the obducted allochthonous nappes including the Semail Ophiolite, transforming the passive margin to an active margin.

The Semail Ophiolite formed most likely above a subduction zone within the Neo-Tethys Ocean during the Cenomanian while parts of the Arabian Plate were subducted to the NE. Formation of oceanic lithosphere and SW-thrusting was broadly coeval, resulting in ophiolite obduction onto the Hawasina Basin. The Semail Ophiolite and the Hawasina rocks combined were thrust further onto the Arabian Plate. Their load created a foreland basin and forebulge within the Arabian Platform. Once the continental lithosphere of the Arabian Platform was forced into the subduction zone, a tear between the dense oceanic lithosphere and the buoyant continental lithosphere developed. This led to rapid uplift and exhumation of subducted continental lithosphere of the Saih Hatat area, while obduction was still going on, causing in multiple and intense folding/thrusting within the eastern Saih Hatat Dome. Exhumation of the Saih Hatat Dome was massive. The emplacement of the ophiolite was completed during the Campanian/Maastrichtian. For completeness, we also present alternative models for the developmental history of the Semail Ophiolite.

Immediately after emplacement, the Arabian lithosphere underwent intense top-to-the-NE extensional shearing. Most of the Saih Hatat Dome was exhumed during the latest Cretaceous to Early Eocene, associated with major extensional shearing at its flanks. Further convergence during the late Eocene to Miocene resulted in exhumation of the Jabal Akhdar Dome and some gentle exhumation of the Saih Hatat Dome, shaping the present-day Southeastern Oman Mountains. In the coastal area, east and SE of the Saih Hatat Dome, some late Cretaceous to present-day uplift is evident by, e.g., uplifted marine terraces. The entire Oman Mountains are uplifting today, which is evident by the massive wadi incision into various rock units, including wadi deposits which may form overhangs.

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