Geology Faculty Publications

Thermobarometric Constraints on the Tectonothermal Evolution of the East Humboldt Range Metamorphic Core Complex, Nevada

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Geological Society of America Bulletin


The East Humboldt Range of Nevada provides a record of deep-crustal tectonic processes in a classic Cordilleran metamorphic core complex located in the hinterland of the Late Cretaceous to early Tertiary Sevier orogenic belt. New constraints reported here on the metamorphic history of this terrane suggest an overall clockwise pressure-temperature-time (P-T-t) path that began with deep tectonic burial and metamorphism at kyanite + staurolite + garnet grade before Late Cretaceous time (possibly in Late Jurassic time?).

Subsequently, higher-temperature Late Cretaceous peak metamorphism overprinted this event, resulting in widespread partial melting and leucogranite injection contemporaneous with emplacement of a large-scale recumbent fold (the Winchell Lake nappe). A new207Pb*/206Pb* date of 84.8 ± 2.8 Ma on syntectonic leucogranite from the hinge zone of this fold constrains the age of this major phase of tectonism. Metamorphism at this time probably reached the second sillimanite isograd, at least at deep structural levels, with peak P-T conditions of 800 °C and >9 kbar.

High-grade conditions persisted during extensional tectonic denudation throughout much of Tertiary time. In conjunction with previously published work, the petrologic and thermobarometric results reported here for the northern East Humboldt Range delineate a steeply decompressional P-T trend that extends from ∼9 kbar and 800 °C to 5 kbar and 630 °C. In the light of decompressional reaction textures, microstructural evidence, and previously published thermochronometric results, we interpret this trend as a P-T-t path for Late Cretaceous to Oligocene time. At least 2 kbar of this decompression (equivalent to at least 7 km of denudation) occurred in Late Cretaceous to early Tertiary time.

This interpretation supports the idea that tectonic exhumation of deep-crustal rocks in northeastern Nevada began during or immediately after the closing stages of the Sevier orogeny. Finally, the steepness of the proposed P-T-t path implies a thermal evolution from a colder to a much hotter geotherm, a circumstance that probably requires plastic thinning of the lower plate in addition to brittle attenuation and removal of the upper plate during Tertiary extension.

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Geological Society of America





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