Laramide reverse faults in southeastern Arizona commonly are obscured by mid- to late Cenozoic extension and subsequent cover, resulting in debate about their configuration and origin. A new mid-Cenozoic paleogeologic map depicts the structural configuration before extension, and new structural reconstructions characterize Laramide shortening in terms of structural style, magnitude, evolution, and timing.

Reverse faults restore to moderate to high angles, are associated with fault-propagation folds, and involve significant basement and thus constitute thick-skinned deformation. The paleogeologic map suggests several major basement-cored block uplifts, many of which are newly identified. The largest uplifts may measure 150 km along strike, similar to those in the classic Laramide province of Wyoming and Colorado. Estimated shortening across the central study area is 14% or 23 km, whereas it is only 5% (9 km) to the north and 11% (12 km) to the south. Shortening by this mechanism is inadequate to explain previous estimates of crustal thickening in the region (∼50−60 km). Therefore, magmatic underplating, lower-crustal flow, or underplating of trench sediments and lithospheric material also may have contributed to thickening. Shortening largely occurred from 86 Ma to 64 Ma and possibly as late as 53 Ma, with initiation being younger to the northeast or north. Integration with data from southwestern New Mexico implies complex geometry for the subducting flat slab. Finally, reverse faults generally do not appear to have reactivated older faults, as previously suggested, primarily because reverse faults have associated fault-propagation folds in rocks that predate supposed reactivated structures.

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