Abstract

The southern Appalachian Pine Mountain window exposes 1.1 Ga Grenvillian basement and its metasedimentary Paleozoic(?) cover through the allochthonous Inner Piedmont. The issue of whether the crustal block inside the window was either transported above the master Appalachian (late Alleghanian) décollement or is an autochthonous block that was overridden by the décollement has been debated for some time. New detrital zircon geochronologic data from the cover rocks inside the window suggest this crustal block was derived from Gondwana but docked with Laurentia before the Alleghanian event. Reprocessed deep seismic reflection data from west-central Georgia (pr- and poststack noise reduction, amplitude variation analysis, and prestack depth migration) indicate that a significant band of subhorizontal reflections occurs almost continuously beneath the window collinear with the originally recognized décollement reflections north of the window. A marked variation in the décollement image, from strong and coherent north of the window to more diffuse directly beneath the window, is likely a partial consequence of the different geology between the Inner Piedmont and the window. The more diffuse image beneath the window may also result from imaging problems related to changes in topography and fold of cover (i.e., signal-to-noise ratio). Two alternative tectonic models for the Pine Mountain window can partially account for the observed variation in the décollement reflectivity. (1) The Pine Mountain block could be truncated below by a relatively smooth continuation of the décollement. The window would thus expose an allochthonous basement duplex or hors-block thrust upward from the south along the Late Proterozoic rifted continental margin. (2) The window represents localized exhumation of autochthonous basement and cover along a zone of distributed intrabasement shearing directly beneath the window. Either model is viable if only reflector geometry is considered; model (1) is favored if both geometry and kinematics of Blue Ridge–Piedmont thrust sheet emplacement are incorporated. In either model, the southern margin of the window merges to the west with the Iapetan early Alleghanian Central Piedmont suture, which juxtaposes North American–affinity Piedmont rocks to the north and exotic Panafrican rocks of the Carolina (Avalon) terrane to the south. Immediately south of the window, this suture dips southward and merges in the lower crust with the late Alleghanian suture joining the Appalachians with Gondwana.

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