Crustal extension in North China since the Mesozoic: A numerical study
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The ~1.8 billion years old North China Craton (NCC) has been thermally rejuvenated during the Mesozoic, experiencing two major phases of crustal extension and volcanism since then. The earlier phase of extension, lasted from middle Mesozoic to early Cenozoic, was widespread in eastern NCC and accompanied with extensive volcanism. The later phase of extension, started in late Cenozoic and is active today, has been localized around the Ordos block, a residual core of the NCC, with limited volcanism. Here we investigate the causes of the NCC extension using finite element method. Numerical results indicate that the diffuse and closely-spaced extension during Mesozoic and early Cenozoic requires a thin and weak lithosphere, which supports the notion of significant lithospheric thinning under the eastern NCC, perhaps by delamination or thermal erosion of the lithospheric root. The western NCC, including the Ordos block, was largely spared by this phase of extension. The late Cenozoic extension around the Ordos block is commonly attributed to the Indo-Asian collision and mantle flow under eastern NCC. Our numerical results show that, regardless of the causing mechanism, a relatively thick and strong lithosphere is needed for the localized extension in western NCC, and preexisting weak zones in the lithosphere is a necessary condition for localized rifting around the Ordos. This preexisting lithospheric weakness is most likely inherited from the amalgamation of the NCC basement ?1.8 billion years ago. The late Cenozoic circum-Ordos rifting thus illustrates the control of ancient continental structures on recent tectonics.
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