Abstract

The ∼1.80 Ga edge of the northwestern North American craton is buried beneath Phanerozoic and Proterozoic rocks of the Western Canada Sedimentary Basin and the adjacent Cordillera. It is visible in more than eight deep seismic reflection profiles that have images of west-facing crustal-scale monoclines with up to 15–20 km of vertical relief, and it produces regional isostatic gravity anomalies that can be followed for more than 1500 km along strike. The deep reflection profiles include two major transects of Lithoprobe (southern Canadian Cordillera transect and Slave – Northern Cordillera Lithospheric Evolution (SNORCLE) transect) and industry profiles that are strategically located to provide depth and geometry constraints on the monoclines. The isostatic anomalies mark the density transition from Paleoproterozoic and older crystalline rocks of the Canadian Shield to less dense supracrustal rocks of westward-thickening late Paleoproterozoic and younger strata. These gravity anomaly patterns thus provide areal geometry of crustal structure variations along strike away from the depth control provided by the seismic data. Although many of the monoclines follow the Fort Simpson geophysical trend along the Cordilleran deformation front, isostatic anomalies near Great Bear Lake delineate a northeast-striking region of low values that may coincide with a failed rift arm or the southern margin of a large basin. The monoclines are interpreted as a series of en echelon structures that probably formed as a result of lithospheric extension at about 1.80–1.70 Ga following terminal accretion of the Paleoproterozoic Wopmay Orogen.

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