Date of Award


Document Type

Campus Access Dissertation


Earth and Ocean Sciences



First Advisor

James H Knapp


The Vrancea Seismogenic Zone (VSZ) of Romania is a steeply NW-dipping volume (30 x 70 x 200 km) of intermediate-depth seismicity in the upper mantle beneath the bend zone of the Eastern Carpathians. The majority of tectonic models lean heavily on subduction processes to explain the Vrancea mantle seismicity and the presence of a Miocene age calc-alkaline volcanic arc in the East Carpathian hinterland. However, recent deep seismic reflection data collected over the Eastern Carpathian bend zone image an orogen lacking (1) a crustal root and (2) dipping crustal-scale fabrics routinely imaged in modern and ancient subduction zones. The DRACULA I and DACIA-PLAN deep seismic reflection profiles show that the East Carpathian orogen is supported by crust only 30-33 km thick while the Focsani basin (foreland) and Transylvanian basin (hinterland) crust is 42 km and 46 km thick respectively. Here the VSZ is interpreted as the former Eastern Carpathian orogenic root which was removed as a result of continental lithospheric delamination and is seismically foundering beneath the East Carpathian bend zone. Because large volumes of calc-alkaline volcanism are typically associated with subduction settings existing geochemical analyses from the Calimani, Gurghiu, and Harghita Mountains (CGH) have been reinterpreted in light of the seismic data which does not advocate the subduction of oceanic lithosphere. CGH rocks exhibit a compositional range from basalt to rhyolite, many with high-Mg# (Mg/Mg+Fe > 0.60), high-Sr (>1000 ppm), and elevated delta-O18 values (6-8.7 /) typical of arc lavas, and are consistent with mixing of mantle-derived melts with a crustal component. The 143Nd/144Nd (0.5123-0.5129) and 87Sr/86Sr (0.7040-0.7103) ratios similarly suggest mixing of mantle and crustal end members to obtain the observed isotopic compositions. A new geochemical model is presented whereby delamination initiates a geodynamic process like subduction but with the distinct absence of subducted oceanic lithosphere to produce the CGH lavas. The origin of the VSZ presented here suggests that the delamination of continental lithosphere is a process capable of producing mantle earthquakes and calc-alkaline volcanism without subduction tectonics.