Rapid tectonic exhumation, detachment faulting and orogenic collapse in the Caledonides of western Ireland

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Collision of the oceanic Lough Nafooey Island Arc with the passive margin of Laurentia after 480 Ma in western Ireland resulted in the deformation, magmatism and metamorphism of the Grampian Orogeny, analogous to the modern Taiwan and Miocene New Guinea Orogens. After ∼470 Ma, the metamorphosed Laurentian margin sediments (Dalradian Supergroup) now exposed in Connemara and North Mayo were cooled rapidly (>35 °C/m.y.) and exhumed to the surface. We propose that this exhumation occurred mainly as a result of an oceanward collapse of the colliding arc southwards, probably aided by subduction rollback, into the new trench formed after subduction polarity reversal following collision. The Achill Beg Fault, in particular, along the southern edge of the North Mayo Dalradian Terrane, separates very low-grade sedimentary rocks of the South Mayo Trough (Lough Nafooey forearc) and accreted sedimentary rocks of the Clew Bay Complex from high-grade Dalradian meta-sedimentary rocks, suggesting that this was a major detachment structure. In northern Connemara, the unconformity between the Dalradian and the Silurian cover probably represents an eroded major detachment surface, with the Renvyle-Bofin Slide as a related but subordinate structure. Blocks of sheared mafic and ultramafic rocks in the Dalradian immediately below this unconformity surface probably represent arc lower crustal and mantle rocks or fragments of a high level ophiolite sheet entrained along the detachment during exhumation. Orogenic collapse was accompanied in the South Mayo Trough by coarse clastic sedimentation derived mostly from the exhuming Dalradian to the north and, to a lesser extent, from the Lough Nafooey Arc to the south. Sediment flow in the South Mayo Trough was dominantly axial, deepening toward the west. Volcanism associated with orogenic collapse (Rosroe and Mweelrea Formations) is variably enriched in high field strength elements, suggesting a heterogeneous enriched mantle wedge under the new post-collisional continental arc. © 2004 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

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