The character of the Moho and lower crust within Archean cratons and the tectonic implications

Abbott, Dallas Helen; Mooney, Walter D.; Van Tongeren, Jill A.

Undisturbed mid Archean crust (stabilized by 3.0–2.9 Ga) has several characteristics that distinguish it from post Archean crust. Undisturbed mid-Archean crust has a low proportion of internal seismic boundaries (as evidenced by converted phases in seismic receiver functions), lacks high seismic velocities in the lower crust and has a sharp, flat Moho. Most of the seismic data on mid-Archean crust comes from the undisturbed portions of the Kaapvaal and Zimbabwe (Tokwe segment) cratons. Around 67–74% of younger Archean crust (stabilized by 2.8–2.5 Ga) has a sharp, flat Moho. Much of the crust with a sharp, flat Moho also lacks strong internal seismic boundaries, but there is not a one to one correspondence. In cases where its age is known, basaltic lower crust in Archean terranes is often but not always the result of post Archean underplating. Undisturbed mid-Archean cratons are also characterized by lower crustal thicknesses (Archean median range = 32–39 km vs. post-Archean average = 41 km) and lower crustal seismic velocities. These observations are shown to be distinct from those observed in any modern-day tectonic environment. The data presented here are most consistent with a model in which Archean crust undergoes delamination of dense lithologies at the garnet-in isograd resulting in a flat, sharp Moho reflector and a thinner and more felsic-intermediate crust. We discuss the implications of this model for several outstanding paradoxes of Archean geology.


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Academic Units
Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory
Marine Geology and Geophysics
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September 28, 2015