The Info List - Laurentia

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LAURENTIA or the NORTH AMERICAN CRATON is a large continental craton that forms the ancient geological core of the North American continent. Many times in its past, Laurentia
has been a separate continent , as it is now in the form of North America, although originally it also included the cratonic areas of Greenland
and also the northwestern part of Scotland
, known as the Hebridean Terrane
Hebridean Terrane
. During other times in its past, Laurentia
has been part of larger continents and supercontinents and itself consists of many smaller terranes assembled on a network of Early Proterozoic
orogenic belts. Small microcontinents and oceanic islands collided with and sutured onto the ever-growing Laurentia, and together formed the stable Precambrian
craton seen today.

The craton is named after the Laurentian Shield , through the Laurentian Mountains , which received their name from the Saint Lawrence River , named after Lawrence of Rome
Lawrence of Rome


* 1 Interior platform

* 2 Tectonic setting

* 2.1 Volcanism * 2.2 Equatorial Location

* 3 Paleoenvironmental change * 4 Geological history * 5 References * 6 External links


In eastern and central Canada, much of the stable craton is exposed at the surface as the Canadian Shield
Canadian Shield
; when subsurface extensions are considered, the wider term Laurentian Shield is more common, not least because large parts of the structure extend outside Canada. In the United States, the craton bedrock is covered with sedimentary rocks of the interior platform in the Midwest
and Great Plains
Great Plains
regions and only in northern Minnesota, Wisconsin, the Adirondacks of New York and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan is the craton bedrock exposed. The sequence of rocks varies from about 1,000 to in excess of 6,100 m (3,500–20,000 ft) in thickness. The cratonic rocks are metamorphic and igneous , while the overlying sedimentary rocks are composed mostly of limestones , sandstones , and shales . These sedimentary rocks were deposited from 650 to 290 million years ago.


The metamorphic and igneous rocks of the "basement complex " of Laurentia
were formed 1.5 to 1.0 billion years ago in a tectonically active setting. The younger sedimentary rocks that were deposited on top of this basement complex were formed in a setting of quiet marine and river waters. During much of Mississippian time, the craton was the site of an extensive marine carbonate platform on which mainly limestones and some dolostones and evaporites were deposited. This platform extended either from the present Appalachian Mountains
Appalachian Mountains
or Mississippi Valley
Mississippi Valley
to the present Great Basin
Great Basin
. The craton was covered by shallow, warm, tropical epicontinental or epicratonic sea (meaning literally "on the craton") that had maximum depths of only about 60 m (200 ft) at the shelf edge. During Cretaceous
times, such a sea, the Western Interior Seaway
Western Interior Seaway
, ran from the Gulf of Mexico
Gulf of Mexico
to the Arctic Ocean , dividing North America
North America
into eastern and western land masses. Sometimes, land masses or mountain chains rose up on the distant edges of the craton and then eroded down, shedding their sand across the landscape. Subduction
of the continent towards the Northwest, that lasted approximately 1.4 to 1.2 billion years, likely caused organic enrichment of the Grenvillian lithospheric mantle. This enrichment is thought to have contributed to the formation of the major supercontinent Rodinia


The southwestern portion of Laurentia
consists of Precambrian basement rocks deformed by continental collisions (violet area of the image above). This area has been subjected to considerable rifting as the Basin and Range Province
Basin and Range Province
and has been stretched up to 100% of its original width. The area contains numerous large volcanic eruptions .


The position of the equator during the Late Ordovician
Late Ordovician
Epoch (c. 458 – c. 444 Ma) on Laurentia
has been determined via expansive shell bed records. Flooding of the continent that occurred during the Ordovician
provided the shallow warm waters for the success of sea life and therefore a spike in the carbonate shells of shellfish. Today the beds are composed of fossilized shells or massive-bedded Thalassinoides facies (MBTF) and loose shells or nonamalgamated brachiopod shell beds (NABS). These beds imply the presence of an equatorial climate belt that was hurricane free which lay inside 10° of the equator at 22.1°S ± 13.5°. This ecological conclusion matches the previous paleomagnetic findings which confirms this equatorial location.


Several climate events occurred in Laurentia
during the Phanerozoic Eon. During the late Cambrian
through the Ordovician
, sea level fluctuated with ice cap melt. Nine macro scale fluctuations of "Global hyper warming", or high intensity greenhouse gas conditions, occurred. Due to sea level fluctuation, these intervals led to mudstone deposits on Laurentia
that act as a record of events. The late Ordovician
brought a cooling period, although the extent of this cooling is still debated. More than 100 Ma later, in the Permian
, an overall warming trend occurred. As indicated by fossilized invertebrates, the western margin of Laurentia
was affected by a lasting southward bound cool current. This current contrasted with waters warming in the Texas region. This opposition suggests that, during Permian
global warm period, northern and northwestern Pangea (western Laurentia) remained relatively cool.


* Around 4.03 to 3.58 Ga , the oldest intact rock formation on the planet, the Acasta Gneiss
Acasta Gneiss
, was formed in what is now Northwest Territories (older individual mineral grains are known, but not whole rocks). * Around 2.565 Ga, Arctica formed as an independent continent. * Around 2.72 to 2.45 Ga, Arctica was part of the major supercontinent Kenorland . * Around 2.1 to 1.84 Ga, when Kenorland shattered, the Arctican craton was part of the minor supercontinent Nena along with Baltica and Eastern Antarctica
. * Around 1.82 Ga, Laurentia
was part of the major supercontinent Columbia . * Around 1.35–1.3 Ga, Laurentia
was an independent continent. * Around 1.3 Ga, Laurentia
was part of the minor supercontinent Protorodinia . * Around 1.07 Ga, Laurentia
was part of the major supercontinent Rodinia
. * Around 750 Ma, Laurentia
was part of the minor supercontinent Protolaurasia . Laurentia
nearly rifted apart. * Around 600 Ma, Laurentia
was part of the major supercontinent Pannotia
. * In the Cambrian
(541 ±0.3 to 485.4 ±1.7 Ma), Laurentia
was an independent continent. * In the Ordovician
(485.4 ± 1.7 to 443.8 ±1.5 Ma), Laurentia
was shrinking and Baltica got bigger. * In the Devonian
(419.2 ± 2.8 to 358.9 ±2.5 Ma), Laurentia collided against Baltica, forming the minor supercontinent Euramerica . * In the Permian
(298.9 ± 0.8 to 252.17 ±0.4 Ma), all major continents collide against each other for forming the major supercontinent Pangaea
. * In the Jurassic
(201.3 ± 0.6 to 145 ±4 Ma), Pangaea
rifted into two minor supercontinents: Laurasia
and Gondwana
. Laurentia
was part of the minor supercontinent Laurasia. * In the Cretaceous
(145 ± 4 to 66 Ma), Laurentia
was an independent continent called North America. * In the Neogene
(23.03 ± 0.05 Ma until today or ending 2.588 Ma), Laurentia, in the form of North America, crashed into South America
South America
, forming the minor supercontinent America.


* ^ Dalziel, I.W.D. (1992). "On the organization of American Plates in the Neoproterozoic and the breakout of Laurentia". GSA Today. 2 (11). pp. 237–241. * ^ Hoffman, Paul F. (1988). "United Plates of America, The Birth of a Craton: Early Proterozoic
Assembly and Growth of Laurentia" (PDF). Annual Review of Earth
and Planetary Sciences. 16: 543–603. doi :10.1146/annurev.ea.16.050188.002551 . * ^ Graham, Joseph (2005). "The Laurentians". Naming the Laurentians: A History of Place Names 'up North'. p. 15. * ^ Fisher, J.H.; et al. (1988). "Michigan basin, Chapter 13: The Geology of North America". Sedimentary cover – North American Craton. D–2. pp. 361–382. * ^ Sloss, L.L. (1988). "Conclusions, Chapter 17: The Geology of North America". Sedimentary cover – North American Craton. D–2. pp. 493–496. * ^ Burgess, P.M. Gurnis, M., and Moresi, L. (1997). "Formation of sequences in the cratonic interior of North America
North America
by interaction between mantle, eustatic, and stratigraphic processes". Geological Society of America Bulletin. 109 (12): 1515–1535. Bibcode :1997GSAB..109.1515B. doi :10.1130/0016-7606(1997)1092.3.CO;2 . CS1 maint: Multiple names: authors list (link ) * ^ Arlo B. Weil; Rob Van der Voo; Conall Mac Niocaill; Joseph G. Meert (January 1998). "The Proterozoic
supercontinent Rodinia: paleomagnetically derived reconstructions for 1100 to 800 Ma". Earth and Planetary Science Letters. 154 (1–4): 13–24. Bibcode :1998E&PSL.154...13W. doi :10.1016/S0012-821X(97)00127-1 . * ^ Parker, Sybil P., ed. (1997). Dictionary of Geology and Mineralogy. New York: McGraw-Hill. * ^ Bates, Robert L. and Julia A. Jackson, ed. (1994). Dictionary of Geological Terms. New York: American Geological Institute: Anchor Books, Doubleday Dell Publishing. * ^ Chiarenzelli, J.; Lupulescu, M.; Cousens, B.; Thern, E.; Coffin, L.; Regan, S. "Enriched Grenvillian lithospheric mantle as a consequence of long-lived subduction beneath Laurentia". Geology. 38 (2): 151–154. doi :10.1130/g30342.1 . * ^ "Geologic Provinces of the United States: Basin and Range Province on". USGS.gov website. Retrieved 9 November 2009. * ^ A B C D Jin, J.; Harper, D. A. T.; Cocks, L. R. M.; McCausland, P. J. A.; Rasmussen, C. M. O.; Sheehan, P. M. "Precisely locating the Ordovician
equator in Laurentia". Geology. 41 (2): 107–110. doi :10.1130/g33688.1 . * ^ A B Landing, Ed (2012-12-15). "Time-specific black mudstones and global hyperwarming on the Cambrian– Ordovician
slope and shelf of the Laurentia
palaeocontinent". Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology. Special
Issue: Time-Specific Facies: the color and texture of biotic events. 367: 256–272. doi :10.1016/j.palaeo.2011.09.005 . * ^ Rosenau, Nicholas A.; Herrmann, Achim D.; Leslie, Stephen A. (2012-01-15). "Conodont apatite δ18O values from a platform margin setting, Oklahoma, USA: Implications for initiation of Late Ordovician icehouse conditions". Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology. 315: 172–180. doi :10.1016/j.palaeo.2011.12.003 . * ^ A B C Clapham, Matthew E. (2010-12-15). "Faunal evidence for a cool boundary current and decoupled regional climate cooling in the Permian
of western Laurentia". Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology. 298 (3): 348–359. doi :10.1016/j.palaeo.2010.10.019 .

* ^ Iizuka, Tsuyoshi; Komiya, Tsuyoshi; Ueno, Yuichiro; Katayama, Ikuo; Uehara, Yosuke; Maruyama, Shigenori; Hirata, Takafumi; Johnson, Simon P.; Dunkley, Daniel J. (March 2007). "Geology and zircon geochronology of the Acasta Gneiss
Acasta Gneiss
Complex, northwestern Canada: New constraints on its tectonothermal history". Precambrian