Abstract

Three lithospheric cross sections provide a continental-scale synthesis of more than two decades of coordinated multidisciplinary research during the Canadian Lithoprobe project. The sections are based on seismic reflection and refraction data combined with a broad range of geological, geochemical, geochronological, and geophysical data. The dataset is derived from remnants of nearly every kind of tectonic regime, and the geologic history of the entrained rocks spans the Present to the Mesoarchean. The longest of the three cross sections is located within a 6000 km long Trans-Canada corridor traversing the North American continent at 45°N–55°N. From west to east, the profile crosses the Juan de Fuca ridge and active Cascadia subduction zone, the Cordilleran, Albertan, and Trans-Hudson orogens, the Superior Province, the Midcontinent rift, the Grenville and Appalachian orogens, and the Atlantic passive margin. The two northern cross sections include (i) a 2000 km long corridor in northwestern Canada (54°N–63°N) crossing the Cordilleran, Wopmay, and Slave orogens; and (ii) a 1600 km long corridor in northeastern Canada (52°N–61°N) crossing the New Quebec and Torngat orogens, the Nain craton, and the Makkovik and Grenville orogens. The unprecedented scale of the cross sections illuminates the assembly of the North American continent. Relationships between orogens are emphasized; plate collisions and accretions have sequentially stacked orogen upon orogen such that the older crust forms basement to the next younger. The large-scale perspective of these regional sections highlights the subhorizontal Moho that is indicative of either structural or thermal re-equilibration (or both), as few crustal roots beneath orogens are preserved. In contrast, heterogeneities in the lithospheric mantle suggest that, in certain situations, relict subducted or delaminated lithosphere can remain intact beneath and eventually within cratonic lithospheric mantle.

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