20. Bird, P. (1984) Laramide crustal thickening event in the Rocky Mountain foreland and Great Plains, Tectonics, 3, 741-758.
Abstract. The Rocky Mountain foreland and Great Plains of the western United States were formerly part of a continental platform, adjusted by erosion and deposition in Cambrian through Jurassic time to near mean sea level, and therefore to a near-uniform crustal thickness of approximately 33 km. Today the region stands at regional elevations up to 2 km, isostatically supported by a crust exceeding 50 km in thickness. Reasonable estimates of Tertiary sedimentation and Laramide strain do not account for more than 15% of the implied thickening. However, from approximately 70-40 m.y. B.P., this region was underlain by a horizontally-subducting slab of Farallon plate lithosphere moving northeast; this slab could have been the cause of the thickening. Finite-difference thermal models with specified kinematics show only a temporary cooling of the base of the North American lithosphere by this slab. The excess weight of the slab would have depressed the region; plate-bending calculations show a quantitative agreement of predicted depression with upper Cretaceous isopachs. Since depression by this slab lasted until the Eocene at least, the latest-Cretaceous regression was probably caused by a Laramide crustal thickening event. The Farallon slab might have caused crustal thickening in two ways. Its excess weight would have drawn in ductile lower crust from surrounding regions. However, calculations show that this effect is too slow, too local, and too reversible to explain most of the crustal thickening. Therefore it seems likely that ductile lower crust was transported from SW to NE by shear stresses which the Farallon plate exerted on the base of the North American lithosphere. A preliminary finite-element calculation based on this hypothesis shows the correct general pattern of crustal thickening. An unexpected but encouraging result is that predicted principal compression directions are orthogonal to many Laramide basement uplifts.