Abstract

Synconvergent extension within orogenic systems is often interpreted as gravitational spreading of thickened crust or as a response to thrust belt dynamics. However, the processes that spatially localize extension during orogenesis are not fully understood. Here, a case study from the United States Cordillera demonstrates that localized upper-crustal thickening can exert a first-order control on the spatial location of synorogenic extension. The Eureka culmination, a 20-km-wide, north-trending anticline with 4.5 km of structural relief in the hinterland plateau of the Sevier orogenic belt (or “Nevadaplano”) in eastern Nevada was deformed by two sets of north-striking normal faults that pre-date late Eocene volcanism. (U-Th)/He and fission-track thermochronology data collected from Paleozoic quartzite in the footwalls of two normal faults demonstrate rapid (10 °C/m.y.), Late Cretaceous to Paleocene (75–60 Ma) cooling, which we interpret as tectonic exhumation during extension, and which was concurrent with late-stage shortening in the frontal Sevier thrust belt. This example illustrates that structural and topographic relief generated within zones of localized upper-crustal thickening can spatially focus extension during orogenesis, and adds to a growing body of evidence that Late Cretaceous–Paleocene extension in the Nevadaplano occurred at both mid- and upper-crustal levels.

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