Abstract

The western Idaho shear zone (WISZ) is a Late Cretaceous, mid-crustal exposure of intense shear localized in the Cordillera of western North America. This shear zone is characterized by transpressional fabrics, i.e., downdip stretching lineations and vertical foliations. Folded and boudinaged late-stage dikes indicate a dextral sense of shear. The vorticity-normal section is identified by examining the three-dimensional shape preferred orientation of feldspar populations and the intragranular lattice rotation in quartz grains in deformed quartzites. The short axes of the shape preferred orientation ellipsoid gather on a plane perpendicular to the vorticity vector. In western Idaho this plane dips gently to the west, suggesting a vertical vorticity vector. Similarly, sample-scale crystallographic vorticity axis analysis of quartzite tectonites provides an independent assessment of vorticity and also indicates a subvertical vorticity vector. Constraints on the magnitude of vorticity are provided by field fabrics and porphyroclasts with strain shadows. Together these data indicate that the McCall segment of the WISZ displays dextral transpression with a vertical vorticity vector and an angle of oblique convergence ≥60°. North and south of McCall, movement is coeval on the Owyhee segment of the WISZ and the Ahsahka shear zone. Together, the kinematics of these shear zones are consistent with northeast-southwest–directed convergence. Plate motion in this orientation acting on a curved plate boundary could have produced pure shear–dominated transpression in the Owyhee (α = 40°) and McCall (α = 60°) segments of the WISZ, while causing reverse-sense shearing (α = 90°) in the Ahsahka shear zone.

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