Pseudotachylyte veins are solidified frictional melt generated by localized high-strain-rate deformation, and they are commonly considered to be reliable geological indicators of seismic slip. While originally thought to occur primarily in the upper crust, field studies suggest pseudotachylyte can also form far below the frictional-viscous transition. This implies a more complex interplay between brittle and crystal-plastic deformation in crustal-scale fault systems. We report a new example of deep pseudotachylyte from the Paleoproterozoic granulite-facies strike-slip Cora Lake shear zone in northern Saskatchewan, Canada. Multiple generations of pseudotachylyte have been variably overprinted by plastic deformation and growth of high-grade metamorphic mineral assemblages (including garnet, orthopyroxene, and/or clinopyroxene). Undeformed pseudotachylyte generation surfaces locally display sinistral offsets, and deformed pseudotachylyte shows unambiguous shear sense indicators compatible with left-lateral Cora Lake shear zone kinematics. The vein networks are commonly proximal to and inherit kinematically compatible semibrittle shear fractures. Thermobarometry and modeling of mineral stability fields for the overprinted pseudotachylyte suggest vein generation between 0.7 and 0.8 GPa and 700 °C and 800 °C (corresponding to depths from 24 to 28 km). Combined with the kinematic compatibility and the well-constrained regional exhumation history, this suggests that the Cora Lake pseudotachylyte formed contemporaneously with the waning stages of deformation in the shear zone and constitutes one of the deepest examples of fault-related pseudotachylyte yet reported in North America. Evidence exists for several possible formation mechanisms, including in situ generation via ductile shear heating−induced plastic instabilities, as well as from interaction with earthquakes nucleating in the overlying brittle fault system. All of these possible mechanisms ultimately suggest a more rheologically complex environment than might typically be expected for these lower-crustal pressure and temperature conditions.
Evidence for deep crustal seismic rupture in a granulite-facies, intraplate, strike-slip shear zone, northern Saskatchewan, Canada
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Omero F. Orlandini, Kevin H. Mahan, Michael J. Williams, Sean P. Regan, Karl Mueller; Evidence for deep crustal seismic rupture in a granulite-facies, intraplate, strike-slip shear zone, northern Saskatchewan, Canada. GSA Bulletin doi: https://doi.org/10.1130/B31922.1
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