Year of Publication

2011

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Dissertation

College

Arts and Sciences

Department

Earth and Environmental Sciences (Geology)

First Advisor

Dr. David P. Moecher

Abstract

The Blue Ridge Province of western North Carolina contains a wide variety of metamorphosed igneous and sedimentary rocks that record the tectonic effects of Precambrian and Paleozoic orogenic cycles. Tectonic interpretations of the events that led to the present configuration are varied and often conflicting. This investigation examines metamorphosed mafic rocks that are widely interpreted to have formed during the closure of ocean basins. Metabasites, and specifically eclogites, have a tendency to mark tectonic sutures and frequently preserve pressure (P), temperature (T), and age data (t) that can be gleaned from mineral equilibria and U-Pb isotopic compositions. As such, the examination of the metabasites is considered the key to understanding the orogenic history of the southern Blue Ridge where these metabasites occur. Chapter 2 is an investigation of the retrograde reactions related to the decompression of sodic pyroxenes that react to form diopside-plagioclase-hornblende-quartz symplectites as stability fields are overstepped during isothermal decompression. In Chapter 3 metabasites from the central and eastern Blue Ridge are re-examined and P-T pathways of these lithologies are determined. The argument is made that the Taconic orogeny of the Blue Ridge is the result of a continent-continent collision event that culminated in a mega-mélange that coincides with the Cullowhee terrane and the eastern Blue Ridge mélange of western North Carolina. Chapter 4 contains the results of a geochronological investigation of the Precambrian basement complex of the eastern Great Smoky Mountains. Chapter 5 is a whole rock geochemical study of the same basement complex. In Chapter 6, a potential lithologic correlation between the southern Blue Ridge basement and the Arequipa- Antofalla block of Peru is discussed. The geologic history of western South America from the Mesoproterozoic through Cambrian is summarized, a potential isotope-based lithologic correlation is proposed, and the early tectonic history of the central Blue Ridge is discussed. Chapter 7 contains brief summaries of Chapters 1-6.

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