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The transition from ancient to modern-style tectonics: insights from lithosphere dynamics modelling in compressional regimes

Abstract : Orogens are traditionally classified according to their tectonic style. Paleoproterozoic tectonics is referred to as “ancient-style tectonics” while Proterozoic tectonics is referred to as “modern-style tectonics”. Ancient-style tectonics is characterised by distributed vertical structures and low topography gradients, often associated with diapirism and partial melting. In contrast, modern-style tectonics involve prominent strain localisation and the formation of thrusts, nappes and high topographic gradients. However, the parameters controlling the transition from ancient to modern-style tectonics are poorly understood. To quantify this transition, a combination of 1D and 2D high resolution lithospheric-scale thermo-mechanical models was conducted. The parameters controlling the strength of the lithosphere (i.e., Moho temperature, strain rate, crustal rheology, crustal radiogenic heat production and role of shear heating) were investigated in detail. Our results show that tectonic style is controlled by the maximum of crustal strength (shear stress). Modern-style tectonics is observed to occur when the maximum of crustal strength is greater than 300 MPa. At the opposite, a maximum crustal strength lower than 300 MPa leads to ancient style tectonic structures. Therefore, crustal rheology, temperature and background strain rate significantly influence the transition from ancient to modern-style tectonics. Shear heating remains a key factor in promoting strain localisation in modern-style tectonics. Crustal radiogenic heat production has a moderate influence by increasing/decreasing the tendency for faulting within the crust. This crustal strength criterion also provides an excellent fit for a second potential proxy: a localisation criterion of ca. 225°C. These two proposed proxies can be used interchangeably to predict the transition from ancient to modern-style tectonics.
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Jonathan Poh, Philippe Yamato, Thibault Duretz, Denis Gapais, Patrick Ledru. The transition from ancient to modern-style tectonics: insights from lithosphere dynamics modelling in compressional regimes. Gondwana Research, Elsevier, 2021, 99, pp.77-92. ⟨10.1016/j.gr.2021.06.016⟩. ⟨insu-03270651⟩

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