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Making it and breaking it in the Midwest: Continental assembly and rifting from modeling of EarthScope magnetotelluric data

June 1, 2016

A three-dimensional lithospheric-scale resistivity model of the North American mid-continent has been estimated based upon EarthScope magnetotelluric data. Details of the resistivity model are discussed in relation to lithospheric sutures, defined primarily from aeromagnetic and geochronologic data, which record the southward growth of the Laurentian margin in the Proterozoic. The resistivity signature of the 1.1 Ga Mid-continent Rift System is examined in detail, in particular as relates to rift geometry, extent, and segmentation. An unrecognized expanse of (concealed) Proterozoic deltaic deposits in Kansas is identified and speculated to result from axial drainage along the southwest rift arm akin to the Rio Grande delta which drains multiple rift basins. A prominent conductor traces out Cambrian rifting in Arkansas, Missouri, Tennessee, and Kentucky; this linear conductor has not been imaged before and suggests that the Cambrian rift system may have been more extensive than previously thought. The highest conductivity within the mid-continent is imaged in Minnesota, Michigan, and Wisconsin where it is coincident with Paleoproterozoic metasedimentary rocks. The high conductivity is attributed to metallic sulfides, and in some cases, graphite. The former is a potential source of sulfur for multiple mineral deposits types, occurrences of which are found throughout the region. Finally, the imprint left within the mantle following the 1.1 Ga rifting event is examined. Variations in lithospheric mantle conductivity are observed and are interpreted to reflect variations in water content (depleted versus metasomatized mantle) imprinted upon the mantle by the Keweenawan mantle plume.