Petrologic, tectonic, and metallogenic evolution of the Ancestral Cascades magmatic arc, Washington, Oregon, and northern California

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Present-day High Cascades arc magmatism was preceded by ∼40 m.y. of nearly cospatial magmatism represented by the ancestral Cascades arc in Washington, Oregon, and northernmost California (United States). Time-space-composition relations for the ancestral Cascades arc have been synthesized from a recent compilation of more than 4000 geochemical analyses and associated age data. Neither the composition nor distribution of ancestral Cascades magmatism was uniform along the length of the ancestral arc through time. Initial (>40 to 36 Ma) ancestral Cascades magmatism (mostly basalt and basaltic andesite) was focused at the north end of the arc between the present-day locations of Mount Rainier and the Columbia River. From 35 to 18 Ma, initial basaltic andesite and andesite magmatism evolved to include dacite and rhyolite; magmatic activity became more voluminous and extended along most of the arc. Between 17 and 8 Ma, magmatism was focused along the part of the arc coincident with the northern two-thirds of Oregon and returned to more mafic compositions. Subsequent ancestral Cascades magmatism was dominated by basaltic andesite to basalt prior to the post–4 Ma onset of High Cascades magmatism. Transitional tholeiitic to calc-alkaline compositions dominated early (before 40 to ca. 25 Ma) ancestral Cascades eruptive products, whereas the majority of the younger arc rocks have a calc-alkaline affinity. Tholeiitic compositions characteristic of the oldest ancestral arc magmas suggest development associated with thin, immature crust and slab window processes, whereas the younger, calc-alkaline magmas suggest interaction with thicker, more evolved crust and more conventional subduction-related magmatic processes. Presumed changes in subducted slab dip through time also correlate with fundamental magma composition variation. The predominance of mafic compositions during latest ancestral arc magmatism and throughout the history of modern High Cascades magmatism probably reflects extensional tectonics that dominated during these periods of arc magmatism.

Mineral deposits associated with ancestral Cascades arc rocks are uncommon; most are small and low grade relative to those found in other continental magmatic arcs. The small size, low grade, and dearth of deposits, especially in the southern two-thirds of the ancestral arc, probably reflect many factors, the most important of which may be the prevalence of extensional tectonics within this arc domain during this magmatic episode. Progressive clockwise rotation of the forearc block west of the evolving Oregon part of the ancestral Cascades magmatism produced an extensional regime that did not foster significant mineral deposit formation. In contrast, the Washington arc domain developed in a transpressional to mildly compressive regime that was more conducive to magmatic processes and hydrothermal fluid channeling critical to deposit formation. Small, low-grade porphyry copper deposits in the northern third of the ancestral Cascades arc segment also may be a consequence of more mature continental crust, including a Mesozoic component, beneath Washington north of Mount St. Helens.

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Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Petrologic, tectonic, and metallogenic evolution of the Ancestral Cascades magmatic arc, Washington, Oregon, and northern California
Series title Geosphere
DOI 10.1130/GES00669.1
Volume 7
Issue 5
Year Published 2011
Language English
Publisher Geological Society of America
Publisher location Boulder, CO
Contributing office(s) Central Mineral and Environmental Resources Science Center
Description 32 p.
First page 1102
Last page 1133
Country United States
State California, Oregon, Washington
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