Bureau of Economic Geology

Structure and Evolution of Upheaval Dome

Upheaval Dome remains one of the most enigmatic structures in North America. Ongoing debate continues about whether the structure is a deeply eroded meteor-impact structure or a pinched-off salt dome. This report presents the case for the salt-dome hypothesis and critically evaluates the arguments on both sides of the debate. Upheaval Dome (Canyonlands National Park, Utah, is an enigmatic structure previously attributed to underlying salt doming, cryptovolcanic explosion, fluid escape, or meteoritic  impact. We instead propose that an overhanging diapir of partly extrusive salt was pinched off from its stem and subsequently eroded. Many features support this inference, especially synsedimentary structures that indicate Jurassic growth of the dome over at least 20 m.y. Conversely, evidence favoring other hypotheses is sparse and equivocal. In the rim syncline, strata were thinned by circumferentially striking, low-angle extensional faults verging both inward (toward the center of the dome) and outward. Near the dome's core, radial shortening produced constrictional bulk strain, forming an inward-verging thrust duplex and tight to isoclinal, circumferentially trending folds. Farther inward, circumferential shortening predominated: radially trending growth folds and imbricate thrusts pass inward into steep clastic dikes in the dome's core. We infer that abortive salt glaciers spread from a passive salt stock during the Late Triassic and Early Jurassic. Later, during the Middle Jurassic, the allochthonous salt spread into a pancake-shaped glacier inferred to be 3 km in diameter. Diapiric pinch-off may have involved inward gravitational collapse of the country rocks, which intensely constricted the center of the dome. Sediments in the axial shear zone beneath the glacier steepened to near vertical. The central uplift is inferred to be the toe of the convergent gravity-spreading  system.
Martin P. A. Jackson
Dan D. Schultz-Ela
Michael R. Hudec
Ian A Watson
Mildred L Porter

Jackson, M. P. A., Schultz-Ela, D. D., Hudec, M. R., Watson, I. A., and Porter, M. L., 2001, Structure and Evolution of Upheaval Dome: Pinched-Off Salt Diapir or Meteoritic Impact Structure?: The University of Texas at Austin, Bureau of Economic Geology, Report of Investigations No. 262, 93 p.

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The University of Texas at Austin, Bureau of Economic Geology
Report of Investigation

University of Texas at Austin

University of Texas

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