LITHOPROBE, Canada's national collaborative earth science research project established to develop a comprehensive understanding of the evolution of the North American continent, is a multidisciplinary program spearheaded by seismic reflection studies. Five recently recorded seismic lines, discussed in this paper, are located in Precambrian regions: the Mesoproterozoic Grenville Province, the Paleoproterozoic Trans-Hudson orogen (THO), the Paleoproterozoic/Archean basement of Alberta, and the Archean Superior Province. Data acquired across the Grenville orogen in eastern Quebec show strong reflectivity throughout the crust; upper crustal reflections can be correlated with exposed structural elements, including extensional shear zones and packages of deformed high-pressure rocks (eclogites). In a marine survey across the Grenville orogen off southeastern Labrador, seismic images show variably dipping reflections and a structural high associated with a major gravity anomaly. Data acquired across central Alberta show crustal-scale thrust stacking and imbrication of the Archean Hearne craton. To the east across the Trans-Hudson orogen, images of similar collisional features are observed. Geochronologic constraints indicate contemporaneity of tectonic activity between the two regions at 1.8 Ga, suggesting that collisional tectonic activity was coeval over a broad crustal region, ca. 1000 km across strike. In the Superior Province, seismic data across a collision zone involving the northern Abitibi greenstone belt and the arc-related Opatica plutonic belt show spectacular crustal reflectivity and dipping reflections that extend 8 s (∼30 km) into the mantle. The latter feature is interpreted as representing a relict 2.69-Ga-old suture associated with subduction, providing the first direct evidence that plate tectonics was active in the late Archean. These five examples, supported by other LITHOPROBE results, refute a number of generalizations about crustal reflectivity that have been made in the past and illustrate how reflection studies, combined with other geoscience studies, can lead to a better understanding of Precambrian tectonics. Reflectivity persists throughout the crust; there is no general separation into a poorly reflective upper crust and a reflective lower crust. Crustal reflectivity in Archean and Proterozoic regions is as pervasive as that in areas of more recent tectonism. The Precambrian reflection Moho is generally well defined but shows a range of characteristics. Relative ages of reflectors can be discerned and tectonic significance can be attached to characteristic features of the crustal reflectivity.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Earth-Surface Processes