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Jurassic evolution of the Western Sierra Nevada metamorphic province

By
Richard A. Schweickert
Richard A. Schweickert
Department of Geological Sciences, University of Nevada–Reno, Reno, Nevada 89557, USA
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Published:
December 01, 2015

This paper is an in-depth review of the architecture and evolution of the Western Sierra Nevada metamorphic province. Firsthand field observations in a number of key areas provide new information about the province and the nature and timing of the Nevadan orogeny. Major units include the Northern Sierra terrane, Calaveras Complex, Feather River ultramafic belt, phyllite-greenschist belt, mélanges, and Foothills terrane. Important changes occur in all belts across the Placerville–Highway 50 corridor, which may separate a major culmination to the south from a structural depression to the north. North of the corridor, the Northern Sierra terrane consists of the Shoo Fly Complex and overlying Devonian to Jurassic–Cretaceous cover, and it represents a Jurassic continental margin arc. The western and lowest part of the Shoo Fly Complex contains numerous tectonic slivers, which, along with the Downieville fault, comprise a zone of west-vergent thrust imbrication. No structural evidence exists in this region for Permian–Triassic continental truncation, but the presence of slices from the Klamath Mountains province requires Triassic sinistral faulting prior to Jurassic thrusting. The Feather River ultramafic belt is an imbricate zone of slices of ultra-mafic rocks, Paleozoic amphibolite, and Triassic–Jurassic blueschist, with blueschist interleaved structurally between east-dipping serpentinite units. The Downieville fault and Feather River ultramafic belt are viewed as elements of a Triassic–Jurassic subduction complex, within which elements of the eastern Klamath subprovince were accreted to the western edge of the Northern Sierra terrane. Pre–Late Jurassic ties between the continental margin and the Foothills island arc are lacking. A Late Jurassic suture is marked by the faults between the Feather River ultramafic belt and the phyllite-greenschist belt. The phyllite-greenschist belt, an important tectonic unit along the length of the Western Sierra Nevada metamorphic province, mélanges, and the Foothills island arc terrane to the west were subducted beneath the Feather River ultramafic belt during the Late Jurassic Nevadan orogeny. South of the Placerville–Highway 50 corridor, the Northern Sierra terrane consists of the Shoo Fly Complex, which possibly contains structures related to Permian–Triassic continental truncation. The Shoo Fly was underthrust by the Calaveras Complex, a Triassic–Jurassic subduction complex. The Late Jurassic suture is marked by the Sonora fault between the Calaveras and the phyllite-greenschist belt (Don Pedro terrane). As to the north, the phyllite-greenschist belt and Foothills island arc terrane were imbricated within a subduction zone during the terminal Nevadan collision. The Don Pedro and Foothills terranes constitute a large-magnitude, west-vergent fold-and-thrust belt in which an entire primitive island-arc system was stacked, imbricated, folded, and underthrust beneath the continental margin during the Nevadan orogeny. The best age constraint on timing of Nevadan deformation is set by the 151–153 Ma Guadelupe pluton, which postdates and intruded a large-scale megafold and cleavage within the Mariposa Formation. Detailed structure throughout the Western Sierra Nevada metamorphic province shows that all Late Jurassic deformation relates to east-dipping, west-vergent thrusts and rules out Jurassic transpressive, strike-slip deformation. Early Cretaceous brittle faulting and development of gold-bearing quartz vein systems are viewed as a transpressive response to northward displacement of the entire Western Sierra Nevada metamorphic province along the Mojave–Snow Lake fault. The preferred model for Jurassic tectonic evolution presented herein is a new, detailed version of the long-debated arc-arc collision model (Molucca Sea–type) that accounts for previously enigmatic relations of various mélanges and fossiliferous blocks in the Western Sierra Nevada metamorphic province. The kinematics of west-vergent, east-dipping Jurassic thrusts, and the overwhelming structural evidence for Jurassic thrusting and shortening in the Western Sierra Nevada metamorphic province allow the depiction of key elements of Jurassic evolution via a series of two-dimensional cross sections.

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GSA Special Papers

Late Jurassic Margin of Laurasia–A Record of Faulting Accommodating Plate Rotation

Thomas H. Anderson
Thomas H. Anderson
Department of Geology and Environmental Science, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15260, USA
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Alexei N. Didenko
Alexei N. Didenko
Institute of Tectonics and Geophysics, Far Eastern Branch Russian Academy of Sciences, Khabarovsk 680000, Russia, and Geological Institute, Russian Academy of Science, Moscow 119017, Russia
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Cari L. Johnson
Cari L. Johnson
Department of Geology and Geophysics, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, Utah 84112, USA
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Alexander I. Khanchuk
Alexander I. Khanchuk
Far East Geological Institute, Far Eastern Branch Russian Academy of Sciences, 159, Prospekt 100-letiya Vladivostoku, Vladivostok 690022, Russia
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James H. MacDonald, Jr.
James H. MacDonald, Jr.
Department of Marine and Ecological Sciences, Florida Gulf Coast University, Fort Myers, Florida 33965, USA
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Geological Society of America
Volume
513
ISBN print:
9780813725130
Publication date:
December 01, 2015

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