Choose language:


Lastest accepted

Home > Publications > Lastest accepted

T.M. Kusky, A. Polat, B.F.Windley et al., 2016 Earth Science Review
announcer:userenRelease date:2017-01-13Views:648

Insights into the Tectonic Evolution of the North China Craton Through Comparative Tectonic Analysis: A Record of Outward Growth of Precambrian Continents



“Looking back dispassionately into the history of geology it is interesting to observe how deeply conservatism appears to have become entrenched. Particular theories have come to be so widely accepted, that any doubts regarding their validity are apt to be overlooked. Indeed there is some danger lest the science become stereotyped through too close adherence to accepted beliefs…” Alex du Toit, 1937, Our Wandering Continents.



Archean cratons have map patterns and rock associations that are diagnostic of the Wilson Cycle. The North China Craton (NCC) consists of several distinctly different tectonic units, but the delineation and understanding of the significance of individual sutures and the rocks between them has been controversial. We present an actualistic tectonic division and evolution of the North China Craton based on Wilson Cycle and comparative tectonic analysis that uses a multi-disciplinary approach in order to define sutures, their ages, and the nature of the rocks between them, to determine their mode of formation and means of accretion or exhumation, and propose appropriate modern analogues. The eastern unit of the craton consists of several different small blocks assembled between 2.6 and 2.7 Ga ago, that resemble fragments of accreted arcs from an assembled archipelago similar to those in the extant SW Pacific. A thick Atlantic-type passive margin developed on the western side of the newly assembled Eastern Block by 2.6-2.5Ga.A >1,300 km- long arc and accretionary prism collided with the margin of the Eastern Block at 2.5 Ga, obducting ophiolites and ophiolitic mélanges onto the block, and depositing a thick clastic wedge in a foreland basin farther into the Eastern Block. This was followed by an arc-polarity reversal, which led to a short-lived injection of mantle wedge-derived melts to the base of the crust that led to the intrusion of mafic dikes and arc-type granitoid (TTG) plutons with associated metamorphism. By 2.43 Ga, the remaining open ocean west of the accreted arc closed with the collision of an oceanic plateau now preserved as the Western Block with the collision-modified margin of the Eastern Block, causing further deformation inthe Central Orogenic Belt. 2.4-2.35 Ga rifting of the newly amalgamated continental block formed a rift along its center, and new oceans within the other two rift arms, which removed a still-unknown continental fragment from its northern margin. By 2.3 Ga an arc collided with a new Atlantic-type margin developed over the rift sequence along the northern margin of the craton, and thus was converted to an Andean margin through arc-polarity reversal.

Andean margin tectonics affected much of the continental block from 2.3 to 1.9 Ga, giving rise to a broad E-W swath of continental margin magmas, and retro-arc sedimentary basins including a foreland basin superimposed on the passive northern margin. The horizontal extent of these tectonic components is similar to that across the present-day Andes inSouth America. From 1.88 to 1.79 Ga a granulite facies metamorphic event was superimposed across the entire continental block with high-pressure granulites and eclogites in the north, and medium-pressure granulites across the whole craton to the south. The scale and duration of this post-collisional event is similar to that in Central Asia that resulted from the Cenozoic India-Asia collision. The deep crustal granulites and volcanic rocks on the surface today, interpreted to be anatectic melts from deep crustal granulites, are similar to high-grade metamorphic rocks and partial melts presently forming at mid-crustal levels beneath Tibet. Structural fabrics in lower-crustal migmatites related to this event reveal that they flowed laterally parallel to the collision boundary, in a way comparable to what is speculated to be happening in the deep crust of the Himalayan/Tibetan foreland. We relate this continent-continent collision to the collision of the North China Craton with the postulatedColumbia(Nuna) Continent. The NCC broke out of the Columbia Continent between 1753-1673 Ma, as shown by the formation of a suite of anorthosite, mangerite, charnockite, and alkali-feldspar granites in an ENE-striking belt along the northern margin of the craton, whose intrusion was followed by the development of rifts and graben, mafic dike swarms, and eventually an Atlantic-type passive margin that signaled the beginning of a long period of tectonic quiescence and carbonate deposition for the NCC during Sinian times, which persisted into the Paleozoic. The style of tectonic accretion in the NCC changed at circa 2.5 Ga, from an earlier phase of accretion of arcs that are presently preserved in horizontal lengths of several hundred kilometers, to the accretion and preservation of linear arcs several thousand kilometers long with associated oceanic plateaus, microcontinents, and accretionary prisms. The style of progressively younger and westward outward accretion of different tectonic components is reminiscent of the style of accretion in the Superior Craton, and may signal the formation of progressively larger landmasses at the end of the Archean (perhaps like the Kenorland Continent), then into the Paleoproterozoic, culminating in the assembly of the Columbia (Nuna) Continent at 1.9-1.8 Ga.