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Style and age of late Oligocene-early Miocene deformation in the southern Stillwater Range, west central Nevada: Paleomagnetism, geochronology, and field relations

January 1, 2000

Paleomagnetic and geochronologic data combined with geologic mapping tightly restrict the timing and character of a late Oligocene to early Miocene episode of large magnitude extension in the southern Stillwater Range and adjacent regions of west central Nevada. The southern Stillwater Range was the site of an Oligocene to early Miocene volcanic center comprising (1) 28.3 to 24.3 Ma intracaldera ash flow tuffs, lava flows, and subjacent plutons associated with three calderas, (2) 24.8 to 20.7 Ma postcaldera silicic dikes and domes, and (3) unconformably overlying 15.3 to 13.0 Ma dacite to basalt lava flows, plugs, and dikes. The caldera-related tuffs, lava flows, and plutons were tilted 60°-70° either west or east during the initial period of Cenozoic deformation that accommodated over 100% extension. Directions of remanent magnetization obtained from these extrusive and intrusive, caldera-related rocks are strongly deflected from an expected Miocene direction in senses appropriate for their tilt. A mean direction for these rocks after tilt correction, however, suggests that they were also affected by a moderate (33.4° ± 11.8°) component of counterclockwise vertical axis rotation. Paleomagnetic data indicate that the episode of large tilting occurred during emplacement of 24.8 to 20.7 Ma postcaldera dikes and domes. In detail, an apparent decrease in rotation with decreasing age of individual, isotopically dated bodies of the postcaldera group indicates that most tilting occurred between 24.4 and 24.2 Ma. The onset of tilting immediately following after the final caldera eruptions suggests that the magmatism and deformation were linked. Deformation was not driven by magma buoyancy, however, because tilting equally affected the caldera systems of different ages, including their plutonic roots. It is more likely that regional extension was focused in the southern Stillwater Range due to magmatic warming and reduction of tensile strength of the brittle crust. Faults that accommodated deformation in the southern Stillwater Range initially dipped steeply and cut deeply to expose more than 9 km of crustal section. The exposed crustal sections are probably rotated blocks above an unexposed basal detachment that lay near the early Miocene brittle-ductile transition.