Seismic Imaging of a Granitoid-Greenstone Boundary in the Paleoarchean Pilbara Craton
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The mode of tectonics by which early Archean proto-continents were deformed was investigated in the Pilbara Craton in Western Australia, which has not been substantially tectonically deformed since ~3.2 Ga. The craton consists of a unique dome and keel structure where vertical, low-grade metamorphism basaltic greenstone keels surround large granitic (TTG) domes. The dominant model for 3.5-3.2 Ga deformation in the Pilbara is gravity-driven vertical tectonics, or partial convective overturn in a hot crust. In this model, the granitic bodies rose upward as solid-state diapirs, and the greenstones "sagducted" downward around the granitic bodies. Australian scientists acquired deep seismic reflection data crossing a granitoid-greenstone boundary. Their processing did not image the geologically mapped steep dip of the boundary because standard methods limit the maximum dip. A 37-km section of these data were reprocessed using 2D Kirchhoff prestack depth migration to include vertical dips. The western half of the migrated section images a granitoid dome with weak to no reflectivity that extends deeper than 4 km. The eastern half images 2-3 km of layered volcanic rocks of the Fortescue Group overlying the greenstones. Seismic velocity models created using travel-time tomography suggest a thin weathering layer overlying slightly fractured crystalline rocks. These fractures close within 200-300 m depth, and velocity reaches bedrock speeds consistent with expected values of granitoids to the west and volcanic rocks of the Fortescue Group to the east. The best migrated image contains several reflections with dips (~45-55˚) cross-cutting each other from both directions at the location of the expected granitoid-greenstone boundary. This strongly suggests the presence of steep dips in the upper ~1.5 km but does not provide a definitive image. This inconclusive result is due to strong surface-wave noise, the crooked 2D seismic line, and the 3D nature of the geologic boundary at the seismic line. A very small seismic velocity gradient within the crystalline bedrock limits the maximum depth to which vertical features can be imaged.
General Audience Abstract
The Pilbara craton is one of the few exposed and intact pieces of continents that were formed ~3.2 billion years ago. This research analyzes how these early land masses were deformed. There are two methods by which early land masses evolved—vertical tectonics (a more rudimentary, gravity-driven form of plate movement) or horizontal tectonics (which is closer to modern-day tectonics and requires many stages of deformation). This area has a unique dome-and-keel structure where greenstones (metamorphosed volcanics) are vertically wrapped around large granitic domes. Studying the vertical features of the greenstones will allow us to ascertain how tectonics evolved in the area. A seismic survey was conducted in 2018 in the area. These data were reprocessed to include steep dips to extract the exact location of the steeply dipping boundary between the dome and keel structure at depth. The resulting image contains inconclusive evidence due to the physical limitations of the geology and the sharp bend in the seismic line. Further studies need to be done to determine if the Pilbara Craton was formed by vertical tectonics.
- Masters Theses