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Published March 10, 1994 | Published
Journal Article Open

Formation and emplacement of the Josephine ophiolite and the Nevadan orogeny in the Klamath Mountains, California-Oregon: U/Pb zircon and ^(40)Ar/^(39)Ar geochronology


Cordilleran ophiolites typically occur as basement for accreted terranes. In the Klamath Mountains, ophiolitic terranes were progressively accreted by underthrusting beneath North America. The Josephine ophiolite is the youngest of the Klamath ophiolites and forms the basement for a thick Late Jurassic flysch sequence (Galice Formation). This ophiolite-flysch terrane forms an east dipping thrust sheet sandwiched between older rocks of the Klamath Mountains above and a coeval plutonic-volcanic arc complex below. The outcrop pattern of the roof (Orleans) thrust indicates a minimum displacement of 40 km, and geophysical studies suggest >110 km of displacement. The basal (Madstone Cabin) thrust is associated with an amphibolitic sole and has a minimum displacement of 12 km. A rapid sequence of events, from ophiolite generation to thrust emplacement, has been determined using ^(40)Ar/^(39)Ar and Pb/U geochronology. Ophiolite generation occurred at 162–164 Ma, a thin hemipelagic sequence was deposited from 162 to 157 Ma, and flysch deposition took place between 157 and 150 Ma. Tight age constraints on thrusting and low-grade metamorphism associated with ophiolite emplacement (Nevadan orogeny) are provided by abundant calc-alkaline dikes and plutons ranging in age from 151 to 139 Ma. Deformation and metamorphism related to the Nevadan orogeny appears to have extended from ∼155 to 135 Ma. Most of the crustal shortening took place by thrusting, constrained to have occurred from ∼155 to 150 Ma on both the roof and basal thrusts. Minimum rates of displacement are 2.4 and 3.6 mm/year for the basal and roof thrusts, respectively, but correlations with coeval thrusts yield rates of 8.4 and 22 mm/year (within the range of plate velocities). The high displacement rates and synchronous movement along the basal and roof thrusts suggest that the ophiolite may have behaved as a microplate situated between western North America and an active arc from ∼155 to 150 Ma. A steep thermal gradient was present in the Josephine-Galice thrust sheet from ∼155 to 150 Ma, with amphibolite facies conditions developed along the basal thrust. After accretion of the ophiolite by underthrusting, the ophiolite and overlying flysch underwent low-grade dynamothermal regional metamorphism from 150 to 135 Ma. The upper age limit is tightly constrained by a 135 Ma K-feldspar cooling age, syntectonic plutons as young as 139 Ma, and a Lower Cretaceous angular unconformity. Very rapid exhumation is indicated by the late Valanginian to Hauterivian age (∼130 Ma) of the unconformably overlying strata, suggesting unroofing by extensional tectonics.

Additional Information

© 1994 American Geophysical Union. Received June 5, 1991; revised July 1, 1993; accepted July 20, 1993. Paper number: 93JB02061. Reviewers R.A. Schweickert, R. Drake, D. Cowan, and especially J.E. Wright provided many valuable comments which led to significant improvements. Calvin Barnes and E. Darby Dyar also provided helpful comments and discussions. We are grateful to Henry Dick for providing mineral separates for samples he had dated by the K/Ar method. Dave Harding and Kristen Grady provided samples from the amphibolite sole, and Sue Cashman provided samples from the Pony Peak pluton. Mark Harrison provided valuable discussions and generous access to ^(40)Ar/^(39)Ar geochronologic facilities at SUNY Albany. This research was funded by National Science Foundation grants EAR8518974 and EAR8722425 (Harper) and AE08415114 and EAR8318212 (Saleeby).

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August 22, 2023