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Pulsed Mesozoic deformation in the Cordilleran hinterland and evolution of the Nevadaplano: Insights from the Pequop Mountains, NE Nevada

July 29, 2020

Mesozoic crustal shortening in the North American Cordillera’s hinterland was related to the construction of the Nevadaplano orogenic plateau. Petrologic and geochemical proxies in Cordilleran core complexes suggest substantial Late Cretaceous crustal thickening during plateau construction. In eastern Nevada, geobarometry from the Snake Range and Ruby Mountains-East Humboldt Range-Wood Hills-Pequop Mountains (REWP) core complexes suggests that the ~10–12 km thick Neoproterozoic-Triassic passive-margin sequence was buried to great depths (>30 km) during Mesozoic shortening and was later exhumed to the surface via high-magnitude Cenozoic extension. Deep regional burial is commonly reconciled with structural models involving cryptic thrust sheets, such as the hypothesized Windermere thrust in the REWP. We test the viability of deep thrust burial by examining the least-deformed part of the REWP in the Pequop Mountains. Observations include a compilation of new and published peak temperature estimates (⁠n=60">n=60n=60⁠) spanning the Neoproterozoic-Triassic strata, documentation of critical field relationships that constrain deformation style and timing, and new 40Ar/39Ar ages. This evidence refutes models of deep regional thrust burial, including (1) recognition that most contractional structures in the Pequop Mountains formed in the Jurassic, not Cretaceous, and (2) peak temperature constraints and field relationships are inconsistent with deep burial. Jurassic deformation recorded here correlates with coeval structures spanning western Nevada to central Utah, which highlights that Middle-Late Jurassic shortening was significant in the Cordilleran hinterland. These observations challenge commonly held views for the Mesozoic-early Cenozoic evolution of the REWP and Cordilleran hinterland, including the timing of contractional strain, temporal evolution of plateau growth, and initial conditions for high-magnitude Cenozoic extension. The long-standing differences between peak-pressure estimates and field relationships in Nevadan core complexes may reflect tectonic overpressure.

Citation Information

Publication Year 2020
Title Pulsed Mesozoic deformation in the Cordilleran hinterland and evolution of the Nevadaplano: Insights from the Pequop Mountains, NE Nevada
DOI 10.2113/2020/8850336
Authors Andrew V Zuza, Charles H. Thorman, Christopher D. Henry, Drew A. Levy, Seth Dee, Sean P. Long, Charles Sandberg, Emmanuel Soignard
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Geosphere
Series Number
Index ID 70220672
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Geology, Geophysics, and Geochemistry Science Center