Geologic Evolution of North America

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Science  12 Apr 1963:
Vol. 140, Issue 3563, pp. 143-152
DOI: 10.1126/science.140.3563.143


The oldest decipherable rock complexes within continents (more than 2.5 billion years old) are largely basaltic volcanics and graywacke. Recent and modern analogs are the island arcs formed along and adjacent to the unstable interface of continental and oceanic crusts. The major interfacial reactions (orogenies) incorporate pre-existing sial, oceanic crust, and mantle into crust of a more continental type. Incipient stages of continental evolution, more than 3 billion years ago, remain obscure. They may involve either a cataclysmic granite-forming event or a succession of volcanic-sedimentary and granite-forming cycles. Intermediate and recent stages of continental evolution, as indicated by data for North America, involve accretion of numerous crustal interfaces with fragments of adjacent continental crust and their partial melting, reinjection, elevation, unroofing, and stabilization. Areas of relict provinces defined by ages of granites suggest that continental growth is approximately linear. But the advanced differentiation found in many provinces and the known overlaps permit wide deviation from linearity in the direction of a more explosive early or intermediate growth.