Geologic constraints on middle-crustal behavior during broadly synorogenic extension in the Central East Greenland Caledonides

Arthur P. White, Kip V. Hodges, Mark W. Martin, Arild Andresen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

38 Scopus citations


Structural and U-Pb geochronologic data from the Forsblad Fjord area of East Greenland (72°30'N) indicate close spatial and temporal ties between orogen-parallel shear and extensional deformation during Caledonian orogenesis. This territory is composed of three tectonostratigraphic units separated by two splays of the Fjord Region Detachment System (FRDS), a principal extensional fault system of the East Greenland Caledonides that was active in Silurian time. The oldest Caledonian fabrics in Forsblad Fjord, which developed at upper amphibolite facies metamorphic conditions, indicate that there was north-south, lateral extrusion of ductile middle-crustal material synchronous with approximately east-west shortening. U-Pb dating of synkinematic granitic leucosomes in migmatitic schists and gneisses demonstrates that this process was underway at ca. 425 Ma. Subsequently, east-west extension along the two splays of the FRDS truncated the older fabrics; the structurally highest of these shear zones - the Tindern detachment - was active as early as ca. 424 Ma. This implies either that there was a rapid transition from Caledonian shortening and possible transpressional deformation to post-orogenic collapse, or our preferred interpretation that extension was synorogenic. The FRDS shares many structural characteristics with the South Tibetan Detachment System of the Cenozoic Himalayan orogen but exhibits two important differences. First, while the South Tibetan system developed in the down-going Indian plate during the India-Eurasia collision, the Fjord Region system developed in the overriding Laurentian plate during the collision of Laurentia with Baltica. Second, whereas the exposed extensional structures in the Himalayas developed in the upper crust and are only inferred to have extended to deeper levels, those in the Forsblad Fjord area were demonstrably active at middle-crustal levels. Evidence for broadly coeval extension and contraction at different structural levels in both mountain belts emphasizes the general importance of crustal decoupling in the collisional orogenic process, and implies that synorogenic extensional deformation is not strictly an upper crustal phenomenon.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)187-208
Number of pages22
JournalInternational Journal of Earth Sciences
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2002
Externally publishedYes


  • East greenland caledonides
  • Geochronology
  • Structural geology tectonics
  • Synorogenic extension

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Earth and Planetary Sciences(all)


Dive into the research topics of 'Geologic constraints on middle-crustal behavior during broadly synorogenic extension in the Central East Greenland Caledonides'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this