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Find Your Science at GSA
5 January 2011
GSA Release No.11-03
Christa Stratton
Director - GSA Communications & Marketing
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January-February 2011 GSA Bulletin Highlights

Boulder, CO, USA - The Jan.-Feb. 2011 GSA Bulletin focuses on river geomorphology; submarine landslides and submarine uplift; the Sangamon paleosol in the Lower Mississippi Valley; the nature and formation of basins, plateaus, cratons, and mountains around the world, including continent building, plate tectonics, and subduction zones, and magmatism; charcoal accumulation rates and teleconnections among regional climates; zircon dating of Amazon River sand; the Messinian salinity crisis; and characteristics of the Sierra Madera impact structure.

Keywords: Sandy River, Sangamon paleosol, Budva Basin, submarine landslides, Green River Basin, western Tethys, Alborz mountains, Peloritani Mountains, Great Divide Basin, Purana basins, Xunhua and Linxia basins, Ellis Bay Formation, Hirnantian Isotopic Carbon Excursion, STEEP study, granite, charcoal accumulation rates, Macquarie Island, Mexican volcanic arc, Amazon River, Central Asian Orogenic Belt, Zuccale fault, Messinian salinity crisis, Sierra Madera impact structure

Highlights are provided below. Representatives of the media may obtain complimentary copies of GSA BULLETIN articles by contacting Christa Stratton at the address above. Please discuss articles of interest with the authors before publishing stories on their work, and please make reference to GSA BULLETIN in articles published. Abstracts for issues of GSA BULLETIN are available at . Contact Christa Stratton for additional information or assistance.

Non-media requests for articles may be directed to GSA Sales and Service, .

Magnitude and timing of downstream channel aggradation and degradation in response to a dome-building eruption at Mount Hood, Oregon
Thomas C. Pierson et al., U.S. Geological Survey, Cascades Volcano Observatory, Vancouver, Washington 98684, USA. Pages 3-20.

Although it has been demonstrated that large explosive eruptions in tropical climatic settings with heavy rainfall can result in dramatic downstream geomorphic and sedimentation effects due to extreme sediment loading of rivers (such as at Mount Pinatubo in 1991), there has been no documentation of magnitudes and timing of such effects in rivers impacted by smaller and different types of eruptions in non-tropical climatic settings. This study by Thomas C. Pierson of the Cascades Volcano Observatory and colleagues documents to what degree downstream river channels can be affected in a temperate climatic setting about 70 km downstream from the source volcano following a moderate-size dome-building eruption. The bed of the lower Sandy River was raised vertically at least 23 m within about a decade of the start of the eruption in 1781, but more than half a century was required for it to incise back down to its present bed profile. A similar amount of channel aggradation occurring today would have a devastating impact on communities in the Sandy River valley, flooding and burying homes, businesses, roads, and other infrastructure. The study has demonstrated that relatively small eruptions can, under the right circumstances, cause localized river channel aggradation on a par with the Mount Pinatubo disaster far downstream from the source volcano.

Age, genesis, and paleoclimatic interpretation of the Sangamon/Loveland complex in the Lower Mississippi Valley, U.S.A.
Helaine W. Markewich et al., U.S. Geological Survey, 3039 Amwiler Road, Suite 130, Atlanta, Georgia 30360, USA. Pages 21-39.

For more than a century, the Sangamon paleosol, an ancient soil formed during the last major interglacial warm period, has been a recognized and studied component within glacially-derived geologic deposits in the central United States including the Upper Mississippi and Lower Missouri River valleys. Field studies by Helaine W. Markewich of the U.S. Geological Survey and colleagues demonstrate that a prominent reddish paleosol occurs in silt-rich deposits of the Lower Mississippi Valley from southernmost Illinois to northwestern Mississippi. Compositional, pedologic, micromorphologic, stratigraphic, and age data indicate that this paleosol is, wholly or in part, time equivalent to the Sangamon paleosol recognized in the central United States and underwent at least two soil-forming periods, the first from about 130 to 90 thousand years ago and a second from about 74 to 58 thousand years ago. Their data suggest that the Sangamon paleosol in the Lower Mississippi Valley formed when the regional paleoclimate was warm to hot with a wider range in temperature, precipitation, and evapotranspiration than present; had seasonal to decadal or longer periods of drought; and had southward trends of increasing temperature and precipitation and decreasing seasonality and variation in annual to decadal precipitation. In the Lower Mississippi Valley, the Sangamon paleosol is both an important stratigraphic marker and paleoclimatic indicator.

A biocalcification crisis at the Triassic-Jurassic boundary recorded in the Budva Basin (Dinarides, Montenegro)
Alenka E. Crne et al., Ivan Rakovec Institute of Palaeontology, ZRC SAZU, Novi trg 2, SI-1000 Ljubljana, Slovenia. Pages 40-50.

The mass extinction at the Triassic-Jurassic boundary (TJB) is one of the five major biotic crises of the Phanerozoic and coincides with volcanic activity in the Central Atlantic Magmatic Province. Data from the deep-water environment of the Budva Basin (Dinarides, Montenegro) provide evidence of an abrupt termination of carbonate deposition across the TJB linked to the perturbation of the global carbon cycle. A sudden decrease of carbonate deposition in the Budva Basin can be best explained by a biocalcification crisis (i.e., crisis of skeletal carbonate-producing organisms), resulting in reduced shedding of shallow-water carbonate into the deep-water basin. Alternatively, increased dissolution of carbonate would also result in reduced carbonate deposition in deep-water environments. According to Alenka Crne of the Ivan Rakovec Institute of Palaeontology, Slovenia, and colleagues, both non-exclusive scenarios support the hypothesis of ocean acidification due to increased CO2, SO2 and CH4 fluxes.

Tectonic and sedimentary evolution of the frontal part of an ancient subduction complex at the transition from accretion to erosion: The case of the Ligurian wedge of the Northern Apennines, Italy
Francesca Remitti et al., Dipartimento di Scienze della Terra, Universita di Modena e Reggio Emilia, Modena, Italy. Pages 51-70.

Plate subduction is an extremely dynamic process occurring with great amounts of released energy. Ninety percent of global seismicity is liberated during subduction. This process is also responsible for a great deal of slope instability, triggering huge submarine landslides that represent a geo-hazard as well as a sudden change of environmental conditions. In this work, Francesca Remitti of the Universita di Modena e Reggio Emilia, Italy, and colleagues report an extensive submarine mass wasting event (affecting an area of about 200 x 20 km) that occurred during subduction and changed the paleogeographic setting of the Northern Apennines of Italy in the Early Neogene (about 22 million years ago). They were able to find a causal link between the outsized slope instability of the Apennine margin and the contemporaneous tectonic changes occurring at the frontal part of the subduction system. The Apennine system, in fact, was shifting from being characterized by frontal accretion (a process nowadays occurring in southwest Japan) to frontal erosion (a process nowadays occurring in Pacific Central America).

Paleogeographic reconstruction of the Eocene Idaho River, North American Cordillera
Lauren M. Chetel et al., BP America, 200 Westlake Park Blvd., Houston, Texas 77079, USA. Pages 71-88.

Eocene Lake Gosiute in southwestern Wyoming was progressively filled in by volcaniclastic sediment between 49.6 and 47.0 million years ago. The source of this material has long been thought to have been the Absaroka volcanic province, immediately north of the greater Green River Basin. Lead isotope compositions of sandstone from this interval, however, are consistent with derivation from the Challis volcanic field. The 40Ar/39Ar ages of single detrital K-feldspar crystals from greater Green River Basin sandstones are nearly identical to 40Ar/39Ar eruptive ages for volcanic rocks of the Challis volcanic field (49.8-45.5 million years old), but Lauren M. Chetel of BP America and colleagues also identify Mesozoic and Proterozoic crystals that are consistent with cooling ages for rocks that were likely exposed in the Idaho segment of the North American Cordillera during the Eocene. Most of these rocks are traversed by or are up-gradient of a major Eocene paleovalley in central Idaho. The sudden appearance of Challis-derived sediment in the greater Green River Basin indicates that a major river, here named the Idaho River, connected the interior of the North American Cordillera to the greater Green River Basin. This connection requires 500 km to reach from central Idaho to the greater Green River Basin. The Idaho River probably carried detritus that was stripped from distant uplifted mountains above the active Challis volcanic field as far south as the Piceance Creek Basin, suggesting a total length of at least 1000 km. Middle Eocene metamorphic core complexes in the northern Cordillera likely produced a major highland in the headwaters of the Idaho River, which generated river systems that drained both eastward into the Wyoming foreland and westward into the Oregon Coast ranges.

Tectonic history of the western Tethys since the Late Triassic
Antonio Schettino and Eugenio Turco, Universita degli Studi di Camerino, Dipartimento di Scienze della Terra, Via Gentile III da Varano, 62032 Camerino (MC), Italy. Pages 89-105.

In a study, Antonio Schettino and Eugenio Turco of the Universita degli Studi di Camerino, Italy, illustrate the tectonic history of the western Tethys since the late Triassic through a set of computer-generated plate reconstructions. The plate motions model, which has been constrained by the Atlantic plate kinematics and on land geologic evidence, defines thirteen tectonic phases, spanning the time interval from the late Ladinian (230 million years ago) to the present. The tectonic evolution of the western Tethys area described in this article is compatible with both global-scale plate kinematics and geological constraints from on-land data observed across the present-day mosaic of displaced terranes surrounding the Mediterranean region.

Arabia-Eurasia continental collision: Insights from late Tertiary foreland-basin evolution in the Alborz Mountains, northern Iran
Paolo Ballato et al., Institut fur Erd- und Umweltwissenschaften and DFG Leibniz Center for Surface Process and Climate Studies, Universitat Potsdam, Karl-Liebknecht-Strasse 24, 14476 Potsdam, Germany. Pages 106-131.

Continental collision occurs at tectonic plate convergent margins and results in the suturing of continents. The collision between the Arabian and Eurasian plate produced high mountains, such as the Caucasus, the Zagros, and the Alborz mountains, and elevated plateaus, such as the Turkish-Iranian plateau, across a wide area in the Middle East. In this paper, Paolo Ballato of Universitat Potsdam and colleagues bring new geologic data from the Alborz mountains of northern Iran to constrain the timing and the mechanisms of the Arabia-Eurasia continental collision. Their data suggest the occurrence of a two-stage collision process involving "soft" collision starting from ca. 36 Ma followed by "hard" collision starting from ca. 20 Ma. During the "soft" collision, plate convergence was mainly accommodated by subduction of Arabia beneath Eurasia, while during the "hard" collision the plate convergence was mainly accommodated by crustal shortening and thickening that led to the development of high mountains similar to those of present day.

Shallow burial and exhumation of the Peloritani Mountains (NE Sicily, Italy): Insight from paleothermal and structural indicators
Luca Aldega et al., Dipartimento di Scienze Geologiche, Universita “Roma Tre,” Largo San Leonardo Murialdo 1, 00146 Roma, Italy. Pages 132-149.

Clay minerals and organic matter dispersed in sediments undergo diagenetic and very low-grade metamorphic reactions in response to sedimentary and/or tectonic burial. The reactions are irreversible under diagenetic and anchizonal conditions, so that exhumed sequences generally retain indices and fabrics indicative of their maximum thermal maturity and burial. In particular, mixed layered clay minerals (I-S) and vitrinite reflectance coupled with apatite fission track data are widely used to investigate levels of diagenesis and time of exhumation in the sedimentary portions of the orogens but they are poorly integrated with classical stratigraphic and structural data. In this paper, Luca Aldega of the Universita Roma Tre and colleagues provide an extensive data set of clay mineralogy, thermo-chronology, organic petrography, and field based structural analysis to identify a strategy to detect the amount of out-of-sequence compressive reactivation in orogenic systems followed by late stages of exhumation. This research allowed them; (1) to reconstruct the burial evolution of the Stilo-Capo D'Orlando sedimentary basin (northeast-Sicily, Italy) during Oligocene-Miocene times; (2) to record a decrease in paleo-geothermal gradient values which marked the evolution of the basin from a fore-arc to a thrust-top setting during the convergence-collision process between the Calabria-Peloritani Arc and the African plate; and (3) to quantify the tectonic overburden that has been totally removed by extensional tectonics and erosion since the late Miocene. This research contributes to kinematic reconstructions in Sicily and can also have an impact on the understanding of the burial and exhumation processes of other segments of the Alpine orogenic system.

Climate-induced formation of a closed basin: Great Divide Basin, Wyoming
Paul L. Heller et al., Dept. of Geology and Geophysics, University of Wyoming, Laramie, Wyoming 82071, USA. Pages 150-157.

This study by Paul L. Heller of the University of Wyoming and colleagues evaluates the possible roles of tectonic activity versus climate change as a cause for formation of the Great Divide Basin, a large closed basin that sits along the U.S. Continental Divide in Wyoming. Modeling the impact of erosion and the observed minor faulting in the region demonstrates that basin closure could have been accomplished primarily by removal of material by the Platte River drainage nearby, but beyond the limits of, the Great Divide Basin. Isostatic rebound due to ongoing river erosion outside of the basin can account for a few tens of meters of uplift along the northeastern margin of the basin, forming a lip that closed the basin. Limited precipitation within the basin area precludes the ability of rivers draining the basin to keep pace within this modest uplift. Hence, climate played the overarching control in formation of this large closed basin in southern Wyoming.

Constraints on the development of Proterozoic basins in central India from 40Ar/39Ar analysis of authigenic glauconitic minerals
James E. Conrad et al., U.S. Geological Survey, MS-999, Menlo Park, California 94025, USA. Pages 158-167.

A number of sedimentary basins in central India, known as the Purana basins, formed following the assembly of the Indian subcontinent. These basins host sequences of sedimentary rocks that were deposited in alluvial and shallow marine environments, but have proven difficult to date accurately since they lack fossils and volcanic rocks are minor components. Based on sparse data, the Purana basins have been considered Neoproterozoic in age. James E. Conrad of the U.S. Geological Survey and colleagues present new 40Ar/39Ar dates of glauconitic minerals found in certain levels of these sedimentary sequences that give ages ranging from 1566 to 1686 Ma, indicating an older Mesoproterozoic age for the sedimentary rocks. Recognition of this older age for the Purana basins has important implications for studies of regional tectonics and Mesoproterozoic oceans.

Stable isotope evidence for topographic growth and basin segmentation: Implications for the evolution of the NE Tibetan Plateau
Brian G. Hough et al., Dept. of Earth & Environmental Sciences, University of Rochester, Rochester, New York 14627, USA. Pages 168-185.

Records of rock type, magnetic orientation, and stable isotope composition from the Xunhua and Linxia basins, located along the Tibetan Plateau’s northeastern margin, suggest that topography in the intervening Jishi Shan mountain range began to develop between 16 and 11 million years ago. Changes in local climate patterns resulting from the evolution of local topography are tracked through comparison of stable isotope compositions of sediments on both sides of the Jishi Shan. Similarity of isotopic compositions is interpreted to reflect the presence of integrated basins whereas distinct isotopic compositions reflect separate basin histories. Originally similar (from 20.3-16 million years ago), the oxygen isotope trends in Xunhua and Linxia become distinctly different between about 16 and 11 million years ago, indicating separation of the adjacent basins. The difference in isotope trends stems from a large increase in oxygen isotope values in the Xunhua basin, whereas those in Linxia remain relatively constant. This pattern is interpreted as an increase in the aridity of the downwind Xunhua basin and suggests the development of a rain shadow behind the growing Jishi Shan. The development of a rain shadow and its associated aridity contrast to the wetter upwind side of the growing range highlights the importance of evaporative enrichment in this extremely continental setting and explains the presence of anomalously positive oxygen isotope values observed in modern rainfall. The findings presented by Brian G. Hough of the University of Rochester and colleagues add to a growing body of evidence for deformation along the Plateau’s north and northeastern margins in the middle to late Miocene.

Chitinozoan biostratigraphy of a new Upper Ordovician stratigraphic framework for Anticosti Island, Canada
Aicha Achab et al., Institut National de la Recherche Scientifique, Centre Eau Terre Environnement, 490, rue de la Couronne, Quebec, QC, G1K 9A9, Canada. Pages 186-205.

Chitinozoans are marine, organic-walled microfossils of uncertain origin, known from the Ordovician to the Devonian. Because of their rapid evolution, they are regarded as a high-resolution stratigraphic tool for correlating and dating sedimentary strata. This study by Aicha Achab of Canada’s Centre Eau Terre Environnement and colleagues reveals that an important part of the Ellis Bay Formation at the eastern end of Anticosti Island is not coeval with strata of the Ellis Bay at the western end of the island because it contains chitinozoans characteristic of the older Vaureal Formation. Based on these findings, new east-west correlations are proposed. These correlations are corroborated by geochemical, sedimentological, and sequence stratigraphic data, and bring to light the need for revising the Upper Ordovician stratigraphy of Anticosti. The comparison of chitinozoan assemblages from the Ellis Bay Formation, with coeval Upper Ordovician successions from other regions in the world, suggests that the formation is of Hirnantian age. An important glaciation occurred during the Hirnantian. The geochemical signature of this glaciation is recognized worldwide and it is known as the Hirnantian Isotopic Carbon Excursion (HICE). The work of Achab and colleagues has determined that, on Anticosti Island, the HICE begins just below the base of the Hirnantian, and has 3 peaks, the last being the most important. These results are in agreement with the data from reference sections in China and Scotland.

Application of LiDAR to resolving bedrock structure in areas of poor exposure: An example from the STEEP study area, southern Alaska
Terry L. Pavlis, Dept. of Geological Sciences, University of Texas at El Paso, El Paso, Texas 79968, USA; and Ronald L. Bruhn. Pages 206-217.

High resolution digital terrain models from airborne laser ranging, or LiDAR, have begun to see widespread use in the geosciences, but, to date, most applications have emphasized geological hazard assessments (e.g. earthquake studies, landslides, etc.) or studies of surface processes (e.g. geomorphology of coastal regions, rivers, etc.). Terry L. Pavlis of the University of Texas at El Paso and Ronald L. Bruhn of the University of Utah show that LiDAR terrain models have a potentially wider use in applications for resolving bedrock geology where outcrops are sparse, but where small-scale topography reflects the subtle expression of underlying bedrock structure. They emphasize the utility of shaded relief images prepared from the terrain model with a variety of simulated sun lighting angles as a tool for analyzing the geology as well as 3-D visualization of the structure. In this study, real time GPS, with a field Geographic Information System for mapping, also proved invaluable when evaluating the origins of features that were observed on shaded relief imagery prior to field work. Analysis of a subset of the LiDAR data indicates that bare-ground models in areas of open forest produce the best results when compared to aerial photography in which the terrain is virtually invisible in the forest shadows. Based on their experience in this project, Pavlis and Bruhn envision a need to reconsider the workflow of many field geology mapping projects to optimize the integration of field mapping with use of remotely sensed imagery and LiDAR elevation models.

The contribution of crustal anatexis to the tectonic evolution of Indian crust beneath southern Tibet
Jess King et al., Department of Earth Sciences, University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong SAR, China. Pages 218-239.

When continents collide to form mountains, the deformed crust invariably melts, producing granites. Just north of the Himalaya, in the Sakya region of southern Tibet, Jess King of the University of Hong Kong and colleagues discovered granites intruded in two distinct episodes after India-Asia collision. The two suites of granite have distinct geochemical and structural signatures that carry crucial implications for the tectonic evolution of the region. Early granites, dated between 28 and 23 million years old, may have helped to weaken the mid- to lower-crust, triggering the ductile flow predicted by some thermo-mechanical models of Himalayan growth during the Oligocene. Later granite plutons, dated between 15 and 9 million years old, were emplaced during uplift of thickened crust to shallow levels (<10 km) between 14 to 8 million years ago. Contrasts in the geochemistry and structural setting of the two granite suites imply that each suite was intruded during a different tectonic regime. The early granites indicate a phase of mountain-building by crustal thickening (growth of the Himalaya). The later granites reflect uplift and extension in southern Tibet (development of the Himalayan Plateau). King and colleagues propose a mechanism for this tectonic change, whereby flexural uplift of Indian collisional crust and sustained uplift in southern Tibet is a response to steepening of the Indian subducting slab during ongoing collision of India and Asia between 23 and 15 million years ago. This mechanism is consistent with both geological and geophysical observations by other Himalayan tectonic research groups.

A high-resolution record of climate, vegetation, and fire in the mixed conifer forest of northern Colorado, USA
Gonzalo Jiménez-Moreno et al., Departamento de Estratigrafía y Paleontología, Universidad de Granada, Fuente Nueva s/n, 18002, Granada, Spain. Pages 240-254.

Gonzaolo Jiménez-Moreno of the Universidad de Granada, Spain, and colleagues write that high-resolution pollen, charcoal, delta-13C, total organic carbon (TOC), and magnetic susceptibility data from sediment cores from a montane lake in northern Colorado record variations in vegetation, fire history, and sedimentation since 14.5 thousand years ago. This record shows warm conditions during the Bolling-Allerod and the coldest conditions in this area during the Younger Dryas event. Warming occurred throughout the early and middle Holocene, lasting until about 5 thousand years ago, when the warmest and wettest summer conditions were recorded. Progressive climate cooling and enhanced winter precipitation are then observed until present day. These long-term climatic trends correlate to changes in summer insolation. Charcoal accumulation rates (CHAR) increased along with the arboreal vegetation, from minima in the Late Glacial period to maxima during the early and middle Holocene, suggesting that charcoal influx was also controlled by climate and vegetation. TOC and delta-13C show a progressive increase and a decrease trend during the late Pleistocene and Holocene, respectively, related to changes in vegetation and productivity in the lake. Major peaks in the CHAR record correspond with peaks in magnetic susceptibility, indicating enhanced fire-induced erosion and sedimentation. Millennial- and centennial-scale changes are also observed throughout the different proxy records. They exhibit strong correlations with climate records from distant regions, including Greenland and the North Atlantic, providing evidence for global teleconnections among regional climates. A solar-climate connection is suggested by prominent about 225- and 390-yr cycles, which may correlate with the 208-yr (Suess) and 400-yr solar cycles.

A detrital record of lower oceanic crust exhumation within a Miocene slow-spreading ridge: Macquarie Island, Southern Ocean
Ryan A. Portner et al., GEMOC ARC National Key Centre, Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, Macquarie University, Sydney NSW 2109, Australia. Pages 255-273.

Sedimentary rocks found on Macquarie Island in the Southern Ocean record the submarine uplift and degradation of lower oceanic crust formed within a 27-33 million year old mid-ocean spreading ridge. The source for the sediment is geochemically different than the 8-million-year-old oceanic crust that makes up the island. Hydrothermally altered basalt, diabase, and gabbro source rocks were uplifted to the ocean floor surface at a spreading-ridge/transform intersection and subsequently transported more than 300 km along a transform fault zone. During transport, the source was ground into sand-sized particles, which were eventually shed into the volcanically active spreading ridge basin where rocks of Macquarie Island formed.

Origin of andesite in the deep crust and eruption rates in the Tancitaro-Nueva Italia region of the central Mexican arc
Steven E. Ownby et al., Dept. of Geological Sciences, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48109-1005, USA. Pages 274-294.

This study documents the erupted volume of different magma types along an 80-km long segment of the Mexican volcanic arc over the past one million years. Information obtained Steven E. Ownby of the University of Michigan and colleagues allows the magma eruption rate at subduction zones to be evaluated. In addition, various models to explain the origin of andesite, and therefore continental crust, at subduction zones are tested. It is concluded that partial melting of the lower continental crust produces the andesite that commonly erupts at subduction zones.

Hydrodynamic fractionation of zircon age populations
Rebecca L. Lawrence et al., Geosciences Dept., Williams College, Williamstown, Massachusetts 01267, USA. Pages 295-305.

Zircons grains, transported in Amazon River sand, record the age of the rocks from which the sand was formed. Measuring the ages of a large number of zircons therefore paints a geochronologic picture of the river’s source area, and this is the basis for using zircons for sediment provenance analysis. But if different-aged zircons have different sizes, and if those sizes are segregated during transport, then the age picture provided by one sample may not fully represent the source rock ages. This study by Rebecca L. Lawrence of Williams College and colleagues shows that zircon grains of different ages in the Amazon do have different average sizes; and that the different sizes can be separated by sorting. They conclude that provenance analysis using zircons must take zircon size into account, and that multiple samples may be necessary to fully characterize source-rock ages.

Devonian and Carboniferous arcs of the Oyu Tolgoi porphyry Cu-Au district, South Gobi region, Mongolia
Alan J. Wainwright et al., Mineral Deposit Research Unit, Dept. of Earth and Ocean Sciences, University of British Columbia, 6339 Stores Road, Vancouver, B.C. V6T 1Z4, Canada. Pages 306-328.

The Central Asian Orogenic Belt consists of micro-continental blocks and mobile belts positioned between the Siberian craton and the Tarim and North China cratons. Extending across Asia for 5000 km, the belt consists of terranes that decrease in age southward away from the Siberian craton. Critical to defining the tectonic evolution of the belt is a time-stratigraphic-structural sequence for the rocks. In the Oyu Tolgoi area of the South Gobi Desert (Mongolia), Devonian and Carboniferous rocks record the construction of multiple arcs, formation of a giant porphyry Cu-Au system, exhumation, and polyphase deformation between 372 and 290 million years ago. Variations in stratigraphic sequences and their U-Pb ages suggest that the region is underlain by a submarine arc that lies some distance offshore became emergent, and remained subaerial to shallow subaqueous through much of that time. The offshore arcs were sufficiently close to ancient crust to have interacted with detritus shed into marine basins, most likely from the Siberian craton and fringing early Paleozoic terranes.

Interactions between low-angle normal faults and plutonism in the upper crust: Insights from the Island of Elba, Italy
S.A.F. Smith et al., Istituto Nazionale di Geofisica e Vulcanologia (INGV), Via di Vigna Murata 605, 00143, Rome, Italy. Pages 329-346.

When continental crust extends, ultimately to form low-lying basins or even new oceans, two main processes act together to re-shape and re-distribute crustal mass. The first is tectonic faulting, and the second is magmatism, or, as it is called if the magmas reach the Earth’s surface, volcanism. The relationship between these two processes is critical to our understanding of how great mountain ranges are first created and then destroyed, yet much remains unknown. In this work, S.A.F. Smith of Rome’s Istituto Nazionale di Geofisica e Vucanologia and colleagues show that the evolution of the Zuccale fault on the Island of Elba - one of the most important tectonic faults in central Italy - was closely linked to the intrusion of a huge igneous body named the Porto Azzurro pluton. The pluton was intruded just below the Zuccale fault as the fault moved within Earth's upper crust. Evidence preserved on Elba suggests that the pluton may have grown much like a slowly inflating balloon, causing the overlying Zuccale fault to develop a warped, domal shape. Faults with similar domal shapes occur in the Basin and Range Province in the western United States, where they are famously known as turtleback detachment faults, but previous explanations to account for this shape have suggested different mechanisms of formation.

The Messinian “Calcare di Base” (Sicily, Italy) revisited
Vinicio Manzi et al., Dipartimento di Scienze della Terra, Università degli Studi di Parma, Via G.P. Usberti, 157/A, 43100 Parma, Italy. Pages 347-370.

The Messinian salinity crisis is one of the most tricky and amazing geological episodes. The episode occurred about 6 Ma when the Mediterranean experienced a powerful biological crisis and underwent the formation of giant saline bodies. Many aspects of this event are still obscure and need to be clarified. This manuscript deals in particular with the so-called “Calcare di Base” a composite carbonate unit commonly considered to mark the onset of the crisis. Based on accurate sedimentologic, petrographic and stratigraphic evidence, Manzi et al. point out that rocks characterized by strong differences, in terms of origin, depositional setting and age have been commonly included in the Calcare di Base. Manzi et al.’s correct recognition in the field may help to solve some controversies still present in literature about the synchronous versus diachronous onset of the Messinian salinity crisis and provide new insights on the sedimentology of the evaporites.

Deformational features and impact-generated breccia from the Sierra Madera impact structure, west Texas
Sarah Huson et al., School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, Washington State University, Pullman, Washington 99164, USA. Pages 371-383.

Sarah Huson of Washington State University and colleagues studied meteorite impact-generated deformational features from the Sierra Madera impact structure in west Texas to estimate shock temperature and shock pressure values involved during its formation. The Sierra Madera structure is a 12 km complex impact structure with a central region of uplifted peaks surrounded by a ring depression. Deformational features within zircon mineral grains, shatter cones, and quartz grains with multiple planar microstructures record pressure and temperature conditions during the impact of about 3 to 20 GPa and post-shock temperatures between 350 to more than 1000 degrees Celsius. Deformational conditions during the impact event were almost certainly higher as erosion has presumably removed most of the more severely shock-deformed rocks.