Abstract

Lithoprobe’s Southern Alberta Refraction Experiment, SAREX, extends 800 km from east-central Alberta to central Montana. It was designed to investigate crustal velocity structure of the Archean domains underlying the Western Canada Sedimentary Basin. From north to south, SAREX crosses the Loverna domain of the Hearne Province, the Vulcan structure, the Medicine Hat block (previously considered part of the Hearne Province), the Great Falls tectonic zone, and the northern Wyoming Province. Ten shot points along the profile in Canada were recorded on 521 seismographs deployed at 1 km intervals. To extend the line, an additional 140 seismographs were deployed at intervals of 1.25–2.50 km in Montana. Data interpretation used an iterative application of damped least-squares inversion of traveltime picks and forward modeling. Results show different velocity structures for the major blocks (Loverna, Medicine Hat, and Wyoming), indicating that each is distinct. Wavy undulations in the velocity structure of the Loverna block may be associated with internal crustal deformation. The most prominent feature of the model is a thick (10–25 km) lower crustal layer with high velocities (7.5–7.9 km/s) underlying the Medicine Hat and Wyoming blocks. Based on data from lower crustal xenoliths in the region, this layer is interpreted to be the result of Paleoproterozoic magmatic underplating. Crustal thickness varies from 40 km in the north to almost 60 km in the south, where the high-velocity layer is thickest. Uppermost mantle velocities range from 8.05 to 8.2 km/s, with the higher values below the thicker crust. Results from SAREX and other recent studies are synthesized to develop a schematic representation of Archean to Paleoproterozoic tectonic development for the region encompassing the profile. Tectonic processes associated with this development include collisions of continental blocks, subduction, crustal thickening, and magmatic underplating.

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