An application of Petrochronology: U/Th-Pb geochronologic rates of burial and exhumation in the Cordilleran hinterland, northern Nevada, USA

Friday, 19 December 2014: 5:30 PM
Benjamin W Hallett, University of Wisconsin Oshkosh, Oshkosh, WI, United States
Monazite and zircon U/Th–Pb dating and yttrium thermometry results from metapelitic rocks of the northern East Humboldt Range, Nevada provide insight into the tectonic evolution of the North American Cordillera. Combining a petrologic approach with in situ U/Th-Pb SHRIMP geochronology gives constraints on the timing and rates of burial and exhumation. When integrated with the results from studies of the intrusive igneous and structural evolution of a complexly deformed crustal block, a broad picture of the behavior of the thickened middle crust in an orogenic wedge begins to emerge. In samples from the upper limb of the south verging Winchell Lake nappe, monazite cores giving moderate YPO4 components yield a mean U–Pb age of 82.8 ± 1.3 Ma representing initial growth near garnet zone conditions. A cycle of burial and heating giving way to decompression and melting, followed by zircon growth accompanied by low YPO4 monazite growth giving a wide range of ages (77.1–62.4 Ma) apparently documents cooling and melt crystallization. Monazite core and zircon ages from these samples bracket the time frame for this cycle through peak pressure and then temperature. Rates of burial therefore are ~1.0­–4.5 mm/year for the Winchell Lake nappe. Migmatitic pelites from the Lizzies Basin area, structurally beneath the Winchell Lake nappe give U-Pb monazite age brackets of 96.5–79.4 Ma, yielding a narrower range of burial rates, ~0.5–2.0 mm/year. Calculated exhumation rates for the same rocks from both the upper limb of the Winchell Lake nappe and the Lizzies Basin area fall between ~0.4 and 1.7 mm/year. Rapid burial followed by rapid exhumation is consistent with thickening by an overthrust mechanism followed by vertical ductile thinning, underplating, erosion, and/or normal faulting. Exhumation is generally slower than estimates for exhumation of metamorphic core complexes north of the Snake River Plain calculated by Bendick and Baldwin (2009). This may represent a difference in the crustal structure or behavior from north to south during crustal thinning following peak Cordilleran thickness. Though this technique provides estimates of the rates of tectonic processes, the exact timing of peak pressure or temperature remains elusive.