Flow of ultra-hot orogens: A view from the Precambrian, clues for the Phanerozoic

Abstract : This contribution emphasizes first-order structural and metamorphic characters of Precambrian accretionary orogens to understand the kinematics and thermomechanical state of the continental lithosphere in convergent settings involving massive juvenile magmatism. We define a new class of orogens, called ultra-hot orogens (UHO), in which the weakest type of lithosphere on Earth is deformed. UHO are characterized by (1) distributed shortening and orogen-scale flow combining vertical and horizontal longitudinal advection, under long-lasting convergence, (2) homogeneous thickening by combined downward movements of supracrustal units and three-dimensional mass redistribution in the viscous lower crust, and (3) steady-state, negligible topography and relief leveled by syn-shortening erosion and near-field sedimentation. The flow analysis of UHO provides clues to understanding crustal kinematics beneath high plateaus and suggests that the seismic reflectivity pattern of hot orogens is an image of the layering produced by lateral flow of the lower crust and associated syn-kinematic plutonism. In between the UHO and the modern cold orogens (CO), developed by shortening of lithosphere bearing a stiff upper mantle, two classes of orogens are defined. Hot orogens (HO, representative of Cordilleran and wide mature collisional belts) share flow pattern characteristics with UHO, but involve a less intense magmatic activity and develop high topographies driving their collapse. Mixed-hot orogens (MHO, representative of magmatic arcs and Proterozoic collisional belts) are orogens made of UHO-type juvenile crust and display CO-like structure and kinematics. This classification points to the fundamental link between the presence of a stiff lithospheric mantle and strain localization along major thrusts in convergent settings. A high Moho temperature (> 900 °C), implying thinning of the lithospheric mantle, enhances three-dimensional flow of the lithosphere in response to convergence. Overall, this classification of orogens emphasizes the space and time variability of uppermost mantle temperature in controlling plate interactions and continental growth.
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Dominique Chardon, Denis Gapais, Florence Cagnard. Flow of ultra-hot orogens: A view from the Precambrian, clues for the Phanerozoic. Tectonophysics, Elsevier, 2009, 477 (3-4), pp.5-118. ⟨10.1016/j.tecto.2009.03.008⟩. ⟨insu-00562376⟩

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