Paleomagnetism and U-Pb geochronology of the late Cretaceous Chisulryoung Volcanic Formation, Korea: tectonic evolution of the Korean Peninsula
© Jeong et al.; licensee Springer. 2015
Received: 27 November 2014
Accepted: 23 April 2015
Published: 8 May 2015
Late Cretaceous Chisulryoung Volcanic Formation (CVF) in southeastern Korea contains four ash-flow ignimbrite units (A1, A2, A3, and A4) and three intervening volcano-sedimentary layers (S1, S2, and S3). Reliable U-Pb ages obtained for zircons from the base and top of the CVF were 72.8 ± 1.7 Ma and 67.7 ± 2.1 Ma, respectively. Paleomagnetic analysis on pyroclastic units yielded mean magnetic directions and virtual geomagnetic poles (VGPs) as D/I = 19.1°/49.2° (α 95 = 4.2°, k = 76.5) and VGP = 73.1°N/232.1°E (A 95 = 3.7°, N = 3) for A1, D/I = 24.9°/52.9° (α 95 = 5.9°, k = 61.7) and VGP = 69.4°N/217.3°E (A 95 = 5.6°, N = 11) for A3, and D/I = 10.9°/50.1° (α 95 = 5.6°, k = 38.6) and VGP = 79.8°N/242.4°E (A 95 = 5.0°, N = 18) for A4. Our best estimates of the paleopoles for A1, A3, and A4 are in remarkable agreement with the reference apparent polar wander path of China in late Cretaceous to early Paleogene, confirming that Korea has been rigidly attached to China (by implication to Eurasia) at least since the Cretaceous. The compiled paleomagnetic data of the Korean Peninsula suggest that the mode of clockwise rotations weakened since the mid-Jurassic. Such interesting variation of vertical rotations in the Korean Peninsula might result from the strike-slip motions of major faults developed in East Asia (the Tancheng-Lujiang fault to the northwest and the Korea-Taiwan strait fault to the southeast), near-field tectonic forcing of the subducting Pacific Plate beneath the Eurasian Plate, and far-field expressions of the India-Asia collision.
East Asia is one of the world’s poorly determined regions for reconstruction of Pangea (Besse and Courtillot 1991, 2002; Yang and Besse 2001; Enkin et al. 1992; Ma et al. 1993; Gilder et al. 2008; Pei et al. 2011). A robust reconstruction of Laurasia is possible only when Mesozoic paleogeography of the Korean Peninsula is well established, bridging the two sides of the Chinese cratons (e.g., Lee et al. 1987; Kim and Van der Voo 1990; Zhao et al. 1994, 1999; Doh et al. 1999, 2002; Park et al. 2003, 2005, 2007; Kim et al. 2009). The primary goal of paleomagnetism is to uncover information about the history of deformation and vertical rotations in geologic units. The present study is intended to analyze the variations in vertical axis block rotations in the Korean Peninsula with respect to more stable Chinese cratons.
The present study deals with the paleomagnetism of late Cretaceous volcanic rocks in GB (Figure 1). Located in the southeastern part of the Korean Peninsula, GB is the largest non-marine sedimentary basin in the Sino-Korean block. Paleomagnetic investigation of GB is necessary to enhance our understanding of the Mesozoic tectonic evolution of the Sino-Korean block. In the present study, we report paleomagnetic data along with high-precision zircon U-Pb dating from the Chisulryoung Volcanic Formation (CVF) in GB, which can shed some light on the late Cretaceous tectonism in Korea, as well as possible tectonic correlation with the Eurasian Plate.
The CVF of southeastern Korea forms an extrusive outlier (6 × 3 km) around Chisulryoung Mountain (765 m) (pink circle in Figure 1 inset). According to Reedman et al. (1987), the CVF was formed by two sequential cycles of subaerial explosive silicic volcanic activities in which an emplacement of thick ash-flows intercalated with volcanoclastic sedimentary rocks. It is typically a basin, circular in form whose underlying sedimentary rocks inclined with centripetal dips (Figure 1). Overall, the CVF lies within a broad structural basin regarded as a down sag caldera (Reedman et al. 1989).
Sampling and laboratory procedures
Rheomorphic ash-flow tuffs occur as hot lateral flows invade the pumice deposits, producing extreme flattening and stretching of dense ignimbrites. Whenever possible, we avoided rheomorphic ignimbrites as they might compromise reliable remanence record. Fifty-four oriented samples were taken from six sites by in situ drilling. These sites are distributed in the western part of the study area where slopes are relatively gentle. In 24 sites where drilling was inapplicable due to high topography and steep slopes along the mountain side, oriented block samples were collected. Six to ten 2.5-cm cylindrical specimens of each sample were alternating-field (AF) demagnetized in 12 steps to 90 mT using a Molspin AF demagnetizer (ASC Scientific, Carlsbad, CA, USA). In addition, other specimens were thermally demagnetized, usually in 50°C steps to 500°C and then in smaller steps to 700°C using a non-inductive thermal demagnetizer (ASC Scientific Model TD-48, ASC Scientific, Carlsbad, CA, USA). Optimum demagnetization step to calculate a mean remanence direction was defined as that producing the minimum dispersion in direction. Sample storage, demagnetization, and spinner magnetometer measurements were performed in a magnetically shielded space with a nominal ambient field of <200 nT at the Paleomagnetism Laboratory, Korea University.
To date, the relative age sequence of the CVF was indirectly established on the basis of the K-Ar ages determined from the intervening intrusive granitoids (Figure 2). In an attempt to directly determine the age of the pyroclastic units, high-precision age dating was carried out. At first, zircons from the A1, A4, and IWT were dated by the U-Pb method using the Sensitive High Resolution Ion MicroProbe (SHRIMP) at the Korea Basic Science Institute. Details of operation and data reduction protocols were similar to those described by Yi et al. (2012). Zircons were extracted from crushed and pulverized samples, using standard magnetic and density separation. Cathodoluminescence (CL) and backscattered electron images were obtained using a scanning electron microscope (SEM) of JEOL 6610LV (JEOL Ltd., Akishima-shi, Japan). Zircon inclusions were identified by using an INCA x-act energy-dispersive spectrometer (Oxford Instruments, Abingdon, UK). Concentrations of U and Th were calculated with reference to SL13 (U = 238 ppm). The measured ratio of 206Pb/238U was calibrated for the standard of 1.1-Gyr-old FC1 zircon (Paces and Miller 1993). Concordia diagrams and age determination were made after excluding the outliers on the basis of the t-test using two commonly used programs of Squid 2.50 and Isoplot 3.71 (Ludwig 2008, 2009). Second, high-precision 40Ar/39Ar step-heating analyses were performed at the Argon Geochronology Laboratory, Oregon State University using the freshest matrix crushed from rock samples.
Paleomagnetic results in the first eruption cycle
n 1 / n 2
The first eruptive cycle (A1, A2, and A3)
In A3, one of the four sites (site 4) has anomalous but well-clustered directions (Table 1). It is unclear whether site 4 records an isolated yet unidentified block movement or a short-lived geomagnetic polarity excursion. Nonetheless, we discarded the results of site 4 in mean calculation (Table 1). Site mean directions and corresponding paleopoles are D/I = 19.1°/49.2° (α 95 = 4.2°, k = 76.5) and VGP = 73.1°N/232.1°E (A 95 = 3.7°, N = 3) for A3.
The mean results for A1 were based on two sites (N = 2; sites 11 and 18). As the Fisher site mean determinations require at least three (i.e., N ≥ 3) individual paleomagnetic mean directions, we used combined specimen mean directions (N = 11; N = 4 for site 11 and N = 7 for site 18). Combined mean directions and corresponding paleopoles are D/I = 24.9°/52.9° (α 95 = 5.9°, k = 61.7) and VGP = 69.4°N/217.3°E (A 95 = 5.6°, N = 11) for A3 (Table 1).
For A2, 14 samples were collected at two sites (A2-1 and A2-2 in Figure 1). Unfortunately, all the samples were weakly magnetized and become fractured during thermal demagnetization. Hence, we were unable to retrieve reliable paleomagnetic results from A2.
Intrusive welded tuff
Paleomagnetic results in the second eruption cycle
n 1 / n 2
Paleomagnetic data from the IWT showed high magnetic inclination and radially scattered magnetic declination (Table 2). Rheomorphic ash-flow tuffs develop preferred alignment of pyroclasts that occurred shortly after the emplacement of laminar viscous flow (Wolff and Wright 1981). Then, it is likely that high magnetic inclination of IWT results from rheomorphism (Uno et al. 2013).
The second eruptive cycle (A4)
High-precision U-Pb zircon age obtained from the base of the CVF (i.e., A1) is 72.8 ± 1.7 Ma (Figures 2 and 3). U-Pb zircon geochronology is unavailable for the overlying sequential tuff layers and tuffaceous sediments for the first eruption cycle. On the basis of normal polarities observed for both A1 and A3, the first eruption cycle of the CVF can be constrained as chron 32N in late Campanian. On the other hand, U-Pb zircon age of 67.7 ± 2.1 Ma was obtained from the stratigraphically higher A4 (Figure 2). While magnetite-bearing tuffs retained TRM of normal polarity, hematite-containing tuffs preserved TCRM of reversed polarity (Figure 8, Table 2). Existence of dual polarities in the same site implies that the second eruption cycle of the CVF may record polarity transition from chron C31N to C30R in late Maastrichitian. Overall, the CVF reflects late Cretaceous volcanism that definitely predates the Paleogene (Figure 2).
Paleomagnetic stability of pyroclastics is influenced by the structural correction to restore the beds to horizontal, degree of bedding tilts, and the caldera affinity. In the present study, no structural correction was employed in analyzing data. Determining systematic variation of attitudes of the intervening volcanic-sedimentary layers was unavailable because the horizontal continuity of A1, S1, A2, S2, A3, and S3 was poor. Instead, we relied on the between- or among-site directional consistency of paleomagnetic directions as a sideline evidence in assessing the quality of paleomagnetic directions. For instance, it is obvious that paleomagnetic mean direction is strongly influenced by the caldera affinity as IWT showed high inclination (Table 2). Therefore, the paleomagnetic mean direction of IWT was excluded in further tectonic discussion. On the other hand, results from A4 suggest that paleomagnetic directions were less relevant to the distances from sampling sites to volcanic-sedimentary boundaries or local faults (Tables 1 and 2).
Due to their inherent sporadic nature, pyroclastic rocks fossilize spot-readings of geomagnetic field vector during volcanic eruptions. As CVF does not reflect massive ever-lasting eruptions, it is difficult to imagine that secular variation is completely averaged out. However, the presence of dual polarities in flow A4 provides a strong rationale for the averaging out of secular variation (Figure 9).
As far as the present study is concerned, the paleomagnetic poles of the CVF show excellent coherence with coeval poles from China, suggesting that Korea has been rigidly attached to China (by implication to Eurasia) at least since the Cretaceous (Figure 10). However, earlier paleomagnetic studies on Mesozoic to Tertiary rocks from the Korean Peninsula showed vertical rotations with respect to China (e.g., Lee et al. 1987; Kim and Van der Voo 1990; Doh and Piper 1994; Zhao et al. 1994, 1999; Doh et al. 1999, 2002; Lee et al. 1999; Zhao et al. 1999; Uno 2000; Park et al. 2003, 2005, 2007; Kim et al. 2009). Then, viable solutions to explain the various degrees of vertical rotations observed in previous paleomagnetic investigations required that individual geologic terranes of the Korean Peninsula formed in Mesozoic to Tertiary experienced different degrees of vertical rotations.
Plate motions would remain rather constant over long time intervals. However, major tectonic changes, such as reorganization of neighboring plate motions, alteration of tectonic boundary, and opening of an ocean basin, would leave small circle swath with respect to reference Euler poles. Such cusps might be reflected as changes in local vertical rotations (Figure 11). Then, what triggered a sinusoidal swing of vertical rotations in the Korean Peninsula at 60 to 70 Ma? Possible sources of tectonic contributor would be the two major fault systems of the Tancheng-Lujiang fault and the Korea-Taiwan strait fault (several hundred kilometers away), the nearest subduction front of the Pacific Plate (over 1,000 km away), and far-field expression of the India-Asia collision (over 4,000 km away) in order of increasing distance.
The first and nearest contributor may be the major faults developed in East Asia. Indeed, the Korean Peninsula is bounded by two major faults of the Tan-Lu fault to the northwest and the Korea-Taiwan strait fault to the southeast (Figure 1 inset). Both fault systems are northeast-southwest trending sinistral in motion (Grimmer et al. 2002; Wang 2006). Such mega-sized sinistral faults could have facilitated clockwise rotations of the Korean Peninsula with respect to China, as in synthetic R-type Riedel shear. Diminishing clockwise motion since the Jurassic fits well with the period of active motion of the Tan-Lu fault (Klimetz 1983). It should be noted that similar clockwise rotations of paleomagnetic poles were also observed in Benxi area, China (Uchimura et al. 1996).
The second possible contributor would involve changes in near-field tectonic forcing of the subducting Pacific Plate beneath the Eurasian Plate. Although the exact timing and location of Izanagi ridge subduction is far from being perfectly resolved (Whittaker et al. 2007; Seton et al. 2012), the Izanagi-Pacific ridge system is estimated to have existed from 120 to 60 Ma (Rowley 2008; van der Meer et al. 2012). Timing of the disappearance of the Izanagi-Pacific ridge system is consistent with the change in the plate motion of the Pacific from northwest (older than 62 Ma) to west (younger than 62 Ma) (Butterworth et al. 2014). It is feasible that westerly enhanced motion of the Pacific Plate around 60 to 70 Ma restored clockwise rotations of the Korean Peninsula as the westerly subduction would accumulate a dextral shear along the NE trend fault (Figure 11). Such a clockwise swing was probably weakened as the new back-arc ocean is created between Japan and Korea in Miocene (Figure 11).
A third probable contributor would be far-field expressions of the India-Asia collision (Acton and Gordon 1989; Besse and Courtillot 1991; Vandamme et al. 1991; Leech et al. 2005). As initially proposed by Zhao et al. (1999), the Kula-Eurasia collision may influence the vertical rotations of the Korean Peninsula.
The weighted mean ages obtained by U-Pb zircon dating from the base/top of the CVF are 72.8 ± 1.7 Ma/67.7 ± 2.1 Ma, respectively. Hence, the CVF reflects late Cretaceous volcanism that predates the Paleogene.
Reliable paleomagnetic information was extracted from the late Cretaceous ignimbrites in Korea. Paleomagnetic mean directions and paleopoles are D/I = 19.1°/49.2° (α 95 = 4.2°, k = 76.5) and VGP = 73.1°N/232.1°E (A 95 = 3.7°, N = 3) for A1, D/I = 24.9°/52.9° (α 95 = 5.9°, k = 61.7) and VGP = 69.4°N/217.3°E (A 95 = 5.6°, N = 11) for A3, and D/I = 10.9°/50.1° (α 95 = 5.6°, k = 38.6) and VGP = 79.8°N/242.4°E (A 95 = 5.0°, N = 18) for A4.
VGP positions of the CVF are statistically identical to the reference poles from China in late Cretaceous to early Paleogene, indicating that Korea has been rigidly attached to China (by implication to Eurasia) at least since the Cretaceous.
Earlier paleomagnetic investigations on Mesozoic to Tertiary rocks from the Korean Peninsula suggest that the degrees of clockwise rotations weakened since the mid-Jurassic. Such variation might result from the influence of two major nearby strike-slip faults (the Tancheong-Luijang fault to the northwest and the Korea-Taiwan strait fault to the southeast), near-field tectonic forcing of subducting Pacific Plate, and far-field expressions of the India-Asia collision.
Lae Hee Han and Su Min Lee provided tremendous help in the field. Editor Xixi Zhao and two anonymous reviewers greatly improved the paper. This work was supported by the National Research Foundation of Korea (NRF) grant funded by the Korea government (MSIP) (NRF-2013R1A2A1A01004418).
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