Structural analysis of the northern Nagssugtoqidian orogen, West Greenland: An example of complex tectonic patterns in reworked high-grade metamorphic terrains

Stanislaw Mazur, Sandra Piazolo, G. Ian Alsop

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Structural analysis of the deeply eroded northern flank of the Palaeoproterozoic Nagssugtoqidian orogen shows marked regional variations in both the orientation and type of fabrics, as is characteristic of Precambrian high-grade terrains subjected to polyphase deformation. Here we investigate the relationship between strain, metamorphic grade, and the resulting structural patterns. The study area south of Aasiaat in West Greenland consists of amphibolite-to granulite-grade Archaean orthogneisses and relatively thin supracrustal units. The regional foliation displays a WSW-ENE to SW-NE strike associated with steep to moderate dips towards the WNW or SSE. Lineation trends are WSW-ENE and generally plunge gently towards the WSW. Mesoscopic fold hinges are usually colinear with the regional lineation. A systematic change in the plunge of lineations occurs across the south-western part of the study area. Towards the south, the lineation plunge progressively increases, despite the generally uniform strike of foliation. This southward increase of lineation pitch is typically associated with the transition from L > S or L = S shape fabrics in rocks characterised by a low pitch, to S > L or S fabrics in the zone of moderate to high pitch. The structural patterns point to subdivision of the study area into a southern domain mostly characterised by S or S > L shape fabrics and a moderate to high angle of lineation pitch, and a northern domain showing L > S or L = S fabrics and low angles of lineation pitch. This subdivision corresponds well with the map scale boundary between granulite facies rocks in the south and amphibolite facies rocks farther north. The observed structural pattern may be explained by two alternative tectonic models: (1) northward indentation of the previously cooled granulite block into the rheologically weaker amphibolite domain, and (2) strain partitioning within a mid-crustal transpression zone. In model 2 the northern domain represents a localised zone dominated by strike-slip kinematics, whereas the southern domain shows evidence of mostly coaxial shortening. Recent geochronology supports the indentator model in spite of limited available data. Despite the details and structural complexities of the two tectonic models, the granulite and amphibolite facies domains seem to form autochthonous segments of a crustal section linked by a transitional zone that was only reactivated and reworked during indentation or transpression. The Nagssugtoqidian compression was effectively transferred across this zone towards the northern amphibolite domain that suffered penetrative deformation during the Palaeoproterozoic event. The N-S shortening was accommodated through folding, indentation and/or strike-slip displacements, rather than by thrusting and folding as seen south of the study area.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)163-178
Number of pages16
JournalGeological Survey of Denmark and Greenland Bulletin
Publication statusPublished - 5 Dec 2006


  • Deformation
  • GIS
  • Indentation tectonics
  • Nagssugroqidian orogen
  • Transpression
  • West Greenland

Programme Area

  • Programme Area 4: Mineral Resources


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