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Earth Sciences



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We present a kinematic model for the evolution of the central Appalachian fold-thrust belt (eastern United States) along a transect through the western flank of the Pennsylvania salient. New map and strain data are used to construct a balanced geologic cross section spanning 274 km from the western Great Valley of Virginia northwest across the Burning Spring anticline to the undeformed foreland of the Appalachian Plateau of West Virginia. Forty (40) oriented samples and measurements of >300 joint orientations were collected from the Appalachian Plateau and Valley and Ridge province for grain-scale bulk finite strain analysis and paleo-stress reconstruction, respectively. The central Appalachian fold-thrust belt is characterized by a passive-roof duplex, and as such, the total shortening accommodated by the sequence above the roof thrust must equal the shortening accommodated within duplexes. Earlier attempts at balancing geologic cross sections through the central Appalachians have relied upon unquantified layer-parallel shortening (LPS) to reconcile the discrepancy in restored line lengths of the imbricated carbonate sequence and mainly folded cover strata. Independent measurement of grain-scale bulk finite strain on 40 oriented samples obtained along the transect yield a transect-wide average of 10% LPS with province-wide mean values of 12% and 9% LPS for the Appalachian Plateau and Valley and Ridge, respectively. These values are used to evaluate a balanced cross section, which shows a total shortening of 56 km (18%). Measured magnitudes of LPS are highly variable, as high as 17% in the Valley and Ridge and 23% on the Appalachian Plateau. In the Valley and Ridge province, the structures that accommodate shortening vary through the stratigraphic package. In the lower Paleozoic carbonate sequences, shortening is accommodated by fault repetition (duplexing) of stratigraphic layers. In the interval between the duplex (which repeats Cambrian through Upper Ordovician strata) and Middle Devonian and younger (Permian) strata that shortened through folding and LPS, there is a zone that is both folded and faulted. Across the Appalachian Plateau, slip is transferred from the Valley and Ridge passive-roof duplex to the Appalachian Plateau along the Wills Mountain thrust. This shortening is accommodated through faulting of Upper Ordovician to Lower Devonian strata and LPS and folding within the overlying Middle Devonian through Permian rocks. The significant difference between LPS strain (10%–12%) and cross section shortening estimates (18% shortening) highlights that shortening from major subsurface faults within the central Appalachians of West Virginia is not easily linked to shortening in surface folds. Depending on length scale over which the variability in LPS can be applied, LPS can accommodate 50% to 90% of the observed shortening; other mechanisms, such as outcrop-scale shortening, are required to balance the proposed model.


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Open access publication of this article was made possible with grant support from Waidner-Spahr Library distributed through the Dickinson College Research & Development Committee.