In this study, structures in plutons and host rocks are coupled with geochronology to track paleodeformation fields from the late Paleozoic to Late Cretaceous in the central Sierra Nevada. Regional NW-striking host-rock foliation, NE- or SW-vergent thrust faults, and associated folds developed from the early Mesozoic to Early Cretaceous. Dextral transpressional shear zones developed in the Late Cretaceous. Strikes of steep-dipping magmatic foliations in Mesozoic plutons temporally vary from approximately NW (Triassic−Jurassic) to WNW (Late Cretaceous), displaying a progressive counterclockwise rotation. Joint interpretation based on combining host-rock and magmatic structures suggests that intra-arc paleodeformation fields were dominated by coaxial and arc-perpendicular contraction from the early Mesozoic to Early Cretaceous, becoming increasingly dextral transpressive in the Late Cretaceous. The switch from contraction to transpression was likely caused by oblique convergence between the Farallon and North American plates. Based on observations in the study area and other host-rock pendants in the central Sierra Nevada, we propose that the intensity of intra-arc deformation is cyclic. To some extent, it mimics the episodic pattern of arc magmatism: Stronger deformation coincides with magmatic flare-ups. Magmatism promotes intra-arc deformation, which in turn causes crustal thickening during transfer of materials downward to the magma source regions, potentially fertilizing source regions with supracrustal materials and resulting in increased magma generation. Thus, models addressing continental arc tempos should include intra-arc processes. Evolution of continental arcs may be influenced by linked cyclic processes within the arcs accompanied by noncyclic processes driven by events external to the arcs.
- Received 5 May 2014.
- Revision received 1 December 2014.
- Accepted 23 February 2015.
- © 2015 Geological Society of America