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The role of oceanic plateau subduction in the Laramide orogeny

Liu, Lijun and Gurnis, Michael and Seton, Maria and Saleeby, Jason and Müller, R. Dietmar and Jackson, Jennifer M. (2010) The role of oceanic plateau subduction in the Laramide orogeny. Nature Geoscience, 3 (5). pp. 353-357. ISSN 1752-0894. doi:10.1038/NGEO829.

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The cause of the Laramide phase of mountain building remains uncertain. Conceptual models implicate the subduction of either ocean ridges or conjugates of the buoyant Hess or Shatsky oceanic plateaux. Independent verification of these models has remained elusive, because the putative ridges or plateaux are no longer at the Earth’s surface. Inverse convection models have identified two prominent seismic anomalies on the recovered Farallon plate. Here we combine inverse convection models with reconstructions of plate motions, to show that these seismic anomalies coincide palaeogeographically with the restored positions of the Shatsky and Hess conjugate plateaux as they subducted beneath North America. Specifically, the distribution of Laramide crustal shortening events tracked the passage of the Shatsky conjugate beneath North America, whereas the effects of the Hess conjugate subduction were restricted to the northern Mexico foreland belt. We propose that continued subduction caused the oceanic crust to undergo the basalt–eclogite phase transformation, during which the Shatsky conjugate lost its extra buoyancy and was effectively removed. Increases in slab density and coupling between the overriding and subducting plates initially dragged the surface downward, followed by regional-scale surface rebound. We conclude that Laramide uplift resulted from the removal, rather than emplacement, of the Shatsky conjugate.

Item Type:Article
Related URLs:
URLURL TypeDescription DOIArticle
Gurnis, Michael0000-0003-1704-597X
Seton, Maria0000-0001-8541-1367
Müller, R. Dietmar0000-0002-3334-5764
Jackson, Jennifer M.0000-0002-8256-6336
Additional Information:© 2010 Macmillan Publishers Limited. Received 25 August 2009; accepted 26 February 2010; published online 28 March 2010. We thank D. Helmberger, D. Anderson, P. DeCelles and K. Karlstrom for helpful discussions and P. DeCelles for a helpful review. This represents Contribution number 10026 of the Division of Geological and Planetary Sciences and 102 of the Tectonics Observatory, Caltech. At Caltech this work has been supported by the National Science Foundation (EAR-0739071 and EAR-0810303) and through the Tectonics Observatory by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation. Author contributions: L.L. and M.G. designed the whole workflow and carried out the inverse convection model, M.S. and R.D.M. carried out the plate reconstruction, J.S. worked on the geological interpretation and J.M.J. provided mineral physics analysis. All authors participated in preparing the paper.
Group:Caltech Tectonics Observatory, Seismological Laboratory
Funding AgencyGrant Number
Gordon and Betty Moore FoundationUNSPECIFIED
Subject Keywords:Structural geology: tectonics and geodynamics; volcanology: mineralogy and petrology
Other Numbering System:
Other Numbering System NameOther Numbering System ID
Caltech Division of Geological and Planetary Sciences10026
Caltech Tectonics Observatory102
Issue or Number:5
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20100526-100500524
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Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:18451
Deposited By: Tony Diaz
Deposited On:20 Jun 2010 19:15
Last Modified:08 Nov 2021 23:44

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