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An Early Cambrian Rift to Post-Rift Transition in the Cordillera of Western North America

Bond, Gerard C.; Christie-Blick, Nicholas; Kominz, Michelle A.; Devlin, William J.

The upper Proterozoic and lower Palaeozoic wedge of miogeoclinal strata in the North American Cordillera is widely regarded as evidence for a proto-Pacific passive margin. The rifting history of this margin appears to have been protracted, possibly spanning more than 200 Myr in a tectonic setting that is not well understood. Quantitative subsidence analyses of lower Palaeozoic strata between British Columbia and Utah, however, provide indirect evidence that the transition from rifting to post-rift cooling occurred within a relatively short interval of time, although probably not synchronously, between 600 and 555 Myr. This age is significantly younger than that implied in previous studies. We describe here new field data, which, together with published geological data, provide direct evidence of a latest Proterozoic or early Cambrian age for the rift to post-rift transition. The data support recent arguments for widespread initiation of passive margins around the edge of the North American craton close to the Cambrian-Precambrian boundary.

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