Ongoing arc magmatism along western North America was preceded by ancestral arc magmatism that began ca. 45 Ma and evolved into modern arc volcanism. The southern ancestral arc segment, active from ca. 30 to 3 Ma, adjoins the northern segment in northern California across a proposed subducted slab tear. The east edge of the Walker Lane approximates the east edge of the southern arc whose products, mostly erupted from stratovolcanoes and lava dome complexes arrayed along the crest of the ancestral arc, extend down the west flank of the Sierra Nevada. Southern arc segment rocks include potassic, calc-alkaline intermediate- to silicic-composition lava flows, lava dome complexes, and associated volcaniclastic deposits.
Northern and southern segment rocks are similar to other convergent-margin magmatic arc rocks but are compositionally distinct from each other. Southern segment rocks have lower TiO2, FeO*, CaO, and Na2O contents and higher K2O contents, and exhibit less compositional-temporal variation. Compositional distinctions between the northern and southern segment rocks reflect the composition and thickness of the crust beneath which the associated magma systems were sourced. Northern segment rock compositions are consistent with generation beneath thin, primitive crust, whereas southern segment rocks represent magmas generated and fractionated beneath thicker, more evolved crust.
Although rocks in the two arc segments have similar metal abundances, they are metallogenically distinct. Small porphyry copper deposits are characteristic of the northern segment whereas significant epithermal precious metal deposits are most commonly associated with the southern segment. These metallogenic differences are also fundamentally linked to the tectonic settings and crustal regimes within which these two arc segments evolved.
- Received 1 May 2013.
- Revision received 30 September 2013.
- Accepted 22 November 2013.
- © 2014 Geological Society of America