The California arc: Thick granitic batholiths, eclogitic residues, lithospheric-scale thrusting, and magmatic flare-ups

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Recent geological and geophysical data show that a significant fraction of the crust (~33 km) in the central Sierra Nevada batholith is granitic, requiring that the batholith be underlain by a significant residual mass prior to Cenozoic extension. Although batholith residua are commonly though to be granulites, xenolith data indicate that eclogite facies residues were an important part of the California arc at depth. The arc was continuously active for >140 m.y., yet most surface and/or shallow crustal magmatism took place via two short-lived episodes: one in the Late Jurassic (160-150 Ma), and a second, more voluminous one in the Late Cretaceous (100-85 Ma). These magmatic flare-ups cannot be explained solely by increases in convergence rates and magmatic additions from the mantle. Isotopic data on xenoliths and midcrustal exposures suggest that North American lower crustal and lithospheric mantle was underthrusted beneath accreted rocks in the arc area. The Late Cretaceous flare-up is proposed to be the result of this major west dipping-lithospheric scale thrusting, an event that preceded flare-up by ~15-25 m.y. I suggest that the central part of the arc shut off at ~80 Ma because the source became melt-drained and not because of refrigeration from a shallowly subducting slab.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4-10
Number of pages7
JournalGSA Today
Issue number11
StatePublished - Jan 1 2001


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geology

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