Abstract

The Grenville Orogen in North America is interpreted to have resulted from collision between Laurentia and another continent, probably Amazonia, at ca. 1100 Ma. The exposed segment of the orogen was derived largely from reworked Archean to Paleoproterozoic Laurentian crust, products of a long-lived Mesoproterozoic continental-margin arc and associated back arc, and remnants of one or more accreted mid-Mesoproterozoic island-arc terranes. A potential suture, preserved in Grenvillian inliers of the southeastern USA, may separate rocks of Laurentian and Amazonian affinities. The Grenvillian Orogeny lasted more than 100 million years. Much of the interior Grenville Province, with peak metamorphism at ca. 1090–1020 Ma, consists of uppermost amphibolite- to granulite-facies rocks metamorphosed at depths of ca. 30 km, but areas of lower crustal, eclogite-facies nappes metamorphosed at 50–60 km depth also occur and an orogenic lid that largely escaped Grenvillian metamorphism is preserved locally. Overall, deformation and regional metamorphism migrated sequentially to the northwest into the Laurentian craton, with the youngest contractional structures in the northwestern part of the orogen at ca. 1000–980 Ma. The North American lithospheric root extends across part of the Grenville Orogen, where it may have been produced by depletion of sub-continental lithospheric mantle beneath the long-lived Laurentian-margin Mesoproterozoic subduction zone. Both the Grenville Orogen and the Himalaya–Tibet Orogen have northern margins characterized by long-lived subduction before continental collision and protracted convergence following collision. Both exhibit cratonward-propagating thrusting. In the Himalaya–Tibet Orogen, however, the pre-collisional Eurasian-margin arc is high in the structural stack, whereas in the Grenville Orogen, the pre-collisional continental-margin arc is low in the structural stack. We interpret this difference as due to subduction reversal in the Grenville case shortly before collision, so that the continental-margin arc became the lower plate during the ensuing orogeny. The structurally low position of the warm, extended Laurentian crust probably contributed significantly to the ductility of lower and mid-crustal Grenvillian rocks.

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