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Seventh Annual V. M. Goldschmidt Conference



The nature and timing of, and processes involved with, crust formation and the extraction of the crust from the Earth's mantle remain subjects of much debate. The Pb isotopic system is one of several isotopic systems that have been used to help understand the processes of crust formation and has the advantage of being based on 3 parent-daughter systems with very different decay rates and 2 elemental pairs (U/Pb and Th/Pb) with different geochemical properties. Early studies of crustal Pb isotopic systematics (e.g. Oversby, 1978) established that by the late Archean, crustal provinces existed with distinct Pb isotopic signatures. Additional work has confirmed these distinctions and emphasized the wide range in characteristics for different crustal regions. For example a region such as the Wyoming Province requires an early stage with high U/Pb but a second stage with low U/Pb and high Th/Pb and Th/U. In contrast regions such as the southern Superior Province or Greenland and Labrador require primary and secondary stages with low U/Pb and Th/Pb. These variations in Pb isotopic signatures indicate a significant range in U/Pb, Th/Pb, and Th/U in the sources of the crust and/or significant variation, including elemental fractionation, in the processes by which crust was formed. Since the extremes of these variations exist in some of the oldest surviving crustal regions (3.9-4.0 Ga), the implication is that processes operating in the first 0.5 Ga of Earth history must have created heterogeneities in U/Pb, Th/Pb and Th/U in significant volumes of the upper mantle. Crust of all ages can have distinctive Pb isotopic signatures that are very useful in the definition of crustal provinces and for understanding the tectonics of crustal amalgamation. Such a situation exists in the SW US where Pb isotopic data define three Proterozoic crustal provinces, Mojave, Yavapai, and Mazatzal, and a probable tectonically- generated transition zone between the Mojave and Yavapai provinces. The initial Pb isotopic

composition of the Yavapai crustal province indicates an oceanic mantle-like source, but Yavapai crustal rocks have higher U/Pb and lower Th/Pb and Th/U than average crustal values (Stacey-Kramers model). Mazatzal crust has the same initial Pb isotopic composition as Yavapai crust implying a common ultimate source, but U/Pb, Th/Pb and Th/U equal to average crustal values, perhaps implying a fundamental difference in the overall processes of crust formation. Mojave crust has a more radiogenic initial Pb isotopic composition than Yavapai and Mazatzal crust, and lower U/Pb and much higher Th/Pb and Th/U than average crustal values. Although most of the exposed Mojave Precambrian rocks are the same age as those in Yavapai and Mazatzal crustal provinces, the Mojave province may involve a significant amount of late Archean and earliest Proterozoic crustal materials. The distinction in elemental ratios may imply some fundamental processes differed from those involved in crust formation in either the Yavapai or Mazatzal province. Pb isotopic data are also valuable in analyzing crust formation in modern magmatic arc environments. The largely marginal continental magmatic arcs of Mesozoic age in the western US from Washington to southern California share a surprising number of Pb isotopic features in spite of their development in association with cratonic regions of widely varying age and isotopic character. All three Pb isotopic ratios increase systematically from W-E with the least radiogenic values approaching ocean island-like values and show a strong positive correlation with ISr. Pb-Pb isotopic plots appear to represent two component mixing at the gross scale. Clearly the processes and volume of magma involved in these arc magmatic environments are capable of minimizing the differences in the continental input to these systems.