Driving mechanisms for >40 km of exhumation during contraction and extension in a continental arc, Cascades core, Washington

Scott R. Paterson, Robert B. Miller, Helge Alsleben, Donna L. Whitney, Peter M. Valley, Hugh Hurlow

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47 Scopus citations


In the NW North American Cordillera, the Cascades core region of the Coast Plutonic Complex underwent Late Cretaceous (>96 Ma to locally 73 Ma) SW-NE contraction and crustal thickening followed by dextral transpression (∼73 to 55 Ma), then transtension (<55 Ma). Exhumation occurred during all three phases. During contraction, slow exhumation (∼0.6 mm/yr) occurred along the margins of the core, driven by isostatic rebound and erosion, and faster exhumation (>3 mm /yr) by local thrusting in regions undergoing crustal thickening. In the central part of the core (Chelan block), >40 km of exhumation occurred between 91 and 45 Ma, about half of which occurred during early contraction (driven by thrusting) and half during top-to-north, arc-oblique shear during reactivation of a midcrustal Cretaceous thrust, the Dinkelman decollement. The footwall of this thrust consists of the Swakane Biotite Gneiss, a Cretaceous, metaclastic assemblage with recorded pressures of 10-12 kbar, no arc-related magmatism, and structures dominated by pervasive top-to-north shearing. The hanging wall consists of the Napeequa Complex, an oceanic assemblage with recorded pressures of 6-12 kbar, voluminous arc-related magmatism, and complex structures indicating early top-to-WSW shearing, younger top-to-north shearing, and widespread folding. In the Napeequa, top-to-north shearing started by 73 Ma during melt-present conditions at pressures ≥6 kbar. Top-to-north shearing in both hanging wall and footwall continued during exhumation (∼1.6 mm/yr) and cooling to greenschist facies conditions during which slip became increasingly localized, eventually resulting in formation of pseudotachylite on discrete slip surfaces. We suggest that arc-oblique extension was driven by along-arc heterogeneity in displacements/ erosion, initially during transpression and underplating of continental sediments, and later during transtension.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)TC3005 1-30
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 2004


  • Cascades core
  • Continental arc
  • Exhumation
  • Napeequa
  • Swakane
  • Tectonics


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