Tectonic subsidence analysis of the Ancestral Rocky Mountains from the interior to the southern margin

Dustin Sweet, John L Brotherton, Nur Uddin Md Khaled Chowdhury, Cameron Ramsey

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Southwestern Laurentia experienced intraplate deformation during the Pennsylvanian and early Permian, an orogenic event termed the Ancestral Rocky Mountains (ARM). Deformation consisted of uplifted Precambrian-cored basement blocks separated from adjacent basins by high-angle faults. The tectonic drivers of this orogen are debated, which is likely in part due to significant changes to the chronostratigraphy of the geologic time scale since many of the models have been proposed. To better understand the orogen, we assess spatial subsidence patterns with 1-D backstripped tectonic subsidence curves from eight ARM basins across the orogen using the 2020 Geologic Time Scale for temporal calibration. These patterns indicate the following: 1) basins largely initiated in the late Morrowan—early Atokan (Bashkirian); 2) most subsidence curves suggest flexure from a fixed-load foreland basin that steadily increased until the Missourian (Kasimovian) where most basins reached peak subsidence; 3) diminished subsidence occurred in most basins in the Late Pennsylvanian and shut off across most of the orogen by the end of the Wolfcampian (Asselian—early Artinskian); and 4) basin subsidence renewed in the southern basins during the Leonardian (late Artinskian—Kungurian). The synchronous start to basin subsidence is coeval to the initiation of highly oblique convergence between the Laurentia and Panthalassan plates along the southwestern margin. Influences from the Ouachita-Marathon margin are best reflected by Late Mississippian subsidence of the Anadarko Basin and transpressional deformation in the Orogrande Basin during the Late Pennsylvanian. The decrease in early Permian subsidence is coeval to the cessation of movement on most ARM faults and burial of Precambrian-cored highlands indicating that classical ARM tectonics is mostly a Pennsylvanian event. The increase in subsidence observed during the Leonardian (late Artinskian—Kungurian) in the southern basins may reflect renewed oblique convergence along the southwestern margin.

Original languageEnglish
Article number110508
JournalPalaeogeography Palaeoclimatology Palaeoecology
StatePublished - Jun 2021


  • Backstripping
  • Basin analysis
  • Intraplate deformation
  • Late Paleozoic


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