skip to main content


Title: Geodetic Extension Across the Southern Basin and Range and Colorado Plateau
Abstract

Rates of crustal deformation in the southern Basin and Range (SBR) and Colorado Plateau (CP) provinces are relatively low in the context of the Pacific‐North America plate boundary (PA–NA); however, the accumulation of small amounts of strain over long periods of time can lead to large earthquakes such as theMw7.5 1887 Sonoran earthquake in northern Mexico. SBR and CP rates of deformation are difficult to quantify due to a dearth of young faulting and seismicity. Moreover, strain accumulation and release related to the adjacent, more active San Andreas and Gulf of California fault systems to the west and southwest can mask the background strain rates associated with SBR and CP tectonics. With data from an enhanced continuous GPS network, we estimate crustal surface velocities of the SBR and CP, after removing coseismic and postseismic displacements, and elastic loading effects arising from major fault zones to the (south)west. We use cluster analysis and geologic data to separate the GPS velocity field into regions and calculate distinct block rotation and uniform strain rates for each region. We find the highest strain rate region includes southwestern Arizona; an area with sparse Quaternary faults, relatively low seismicity, and a relatively large discrepancy between geodetic and geologic rates of deformation. This anomalous strain rate may reflect residual, unmodeled PA‐NA strain seeping into the Arizona study area from the west. Alternatively, it may represent the potential for one or more rare, future, large‐magnitude earthquakes or indicate strain is being released through other process(es).

 
more » « less
NSF-PAR ID:
10366939
Author(s) / Creator(s):
 ;  ;  ;  ;  
Publisher / Repository:
DOI PREFIX: 10.1029
Date Published:
Journal Name:
Journal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth
Volume:
126
Issue:
6
ISSN:
2169-9313
Format(s):
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. Abstract

    Although episodes of surface uplift and elevated seismicity precede many volcanic eruptions, their temporal evolution is often complex, and apparently in contradiction to simple trends predicted by mechanical deformation models. Here, we use continuous global positioning system and seismic data recorded at Sierra Negra volcano, Galápagos Islands, to show how the edifice responded to stress changes driven by magma accumulation in a shallow sill. The rate of uplift varied during the 13 years and 6.5 m of inflation before the 2018 eruption. The number of earthquakes per unit of uplift increased exponentially with total uplift as the differential stress increased. Accordingly, the temporal seismicity rate varied in time as a function of both the total uplift and the uplift rate. The Gutenberg‐Richterb‐value decreased as a function of total uplift. In the final six months before the eruption, a sequence of large (M > 4) earthquakes regulated the state of stress on the fault, each being followed by 2–3 days of postseismic quiescence, and retarding the increase in seismicity rate. These earthquakes did not affect the overall uplift rate. Subsidence of 8.5 m accompanied the 2‐month eruption. On resumption of uplift, the number of earthquakes per unit of uplift was very low, and theb‐value high, reflecting the relaxed stress state of the fault system. These observations show that crustal deformation becomes increasingly brittle at higher stress states, and supports theoretical models based on elastic‐brittle mechanics. They suggest that joint interpretation of deformation and seismicity is key for forecasting future eruptions in similar volcanic settings.

     
    more » « less
  2. Abstract

    The 1976 Great Tangshan earthquake (Ms7.8) in North China was the deadliest earthquake in the past century. Understandably, a sequence of moderate (M ≥ 4.5) earthquakes in recent years in the Tangshan region, including theMs5.1 earthquake on July 12, 2020, raised much social concern and scientific debate about the seismic risk near Tangshan and in North China, a region of active intraplate seismicity. Are these recent events aftershocks of the 1976 Great Tangshan earthquake or are they background earthquakes? Here, we separated clustered events (i.e., aftershocks) from background earthquakes in Tangshan and the entire North China using the nearest‐neighbor (NN) method, and estimated the duration of the 1976 Tangshan aftershock sequence by fitting the decay of seismicity with respect to the background seismicity. Our results suggest that the recent moderate earthquakes are likely aftershocks. This is consistent with their occurrences in places of increased Coulomb failure stress due to the 1976 Great Tangshan earthquake. The estimated aftershock duration is around 65–100 years for the 1976 Great Tangshan earthquake. The background seismicity in North China, obtained by removing aftershocks identified by the NN method, is relatively stationary in space but varies in time, decreasing slightly in recent years. Major active tectonic zones, including the Shanxi Rift and the Zhangjiakou‐Penglai fault system, show correlation between relatively high background seismicity, high geodetic strain rates, and large historic earthquakes. Such correlation, however, is poor within the North China Plain, highlighting the complexity of intraplate earthquakes.

     
    more » « less
  3. Abstract

    The style of convective force transmission to plates and strain‐localization within and underneath plate boundaries remain debated. To address some of the related issues, we analyze a range of deformation indicators in southern California from the surface to the asthenosphere. Present‐day surface strain rates can be inferred from geodesy. At seismogenic crustal depths, stress can be inferred from focal mechanisms and splitting of shear waves from local earthquakes via crack‐dependent seismic velocities. At greater depths, constraints on rock fabrics are obtained from receiver function anisotropy,PnandPtomography, surface wave tomography, and splitting ofSKSand other teleseismic core phases. We construct a synthesis of deformation‐related observations focusing on quantitative comparisons of deformation style. We find consistency with roughly N‐S compression and E‐W extension near the surface and in the asthenospheric mantle. However, all lithospheric anisotropy indicators show deviations from this pattern.Pnfast axes and dipping foliations from receiver functions are fault‐parallel with no localization to fault traces and match post‐Farallon block rotations in the Western Transverse Ranges. Local shear wave splitting orientations deviate from the stress orientations inferred from focal mechanisms in significant portions of the area. We interpret these observations as an indication that lithospheric fabric, developed during Farallon subduction and subsequent extension, has not been completely reset by present‐day transform motion and may influence the current deformation behavior. This provides a new perspective on the timescales of deformation memory and lithosphere‐asthenosphere interactions.

     
    more » « less
  4. Abstract The spatial distribution and kinematics of intracontinental deformation provide insight into the dominant mode of continental tectonics: rigid-body motion versus continuum flow. The discrete San Andreas fault defines the western North America plate boundary, but transtensional deformation is distributed hundreds of kilometers eastward across the Walker Lane–Basin and Range provinces. In particular, distributed Basin and Range extension has been encroaching westward onto the relatively stable Sierra Nevada block since the Miocene, but the timing and style of distributed deformation overprinting the stable Sierra Nevada crust remains poorly resolved. Here we bracket the timing, magnitude, and kinematics of overprinting Walker Lane and Basin and Range deformation in the Pine Nut Mountains, Nevada (USA), which are the westernmost structural and topographic expression of the Basin and Range, with new geologic mapping and 40Ar/39Ar geochronology. Structural mapping suggests that north-striking normal faults developed during the initiation of Basin and Range extension and were later reactivated as northeast-striking oblique-slip faults following the onset of Walker Lane transtensional deformation. Conformable volcanic and sedimentary rocks, with new ages spanning ca. 14.2 Ma to 6.8 Ma, were tilted 30°–36° northwest by east-dipping normal faults. This relationship demonstrates that dip-slip deformation initiated after ca. 6.8 Ma. A retrodeformed cross section across the range suggests that the range experienced 14% extension. Subsequently, Walker Lane transtension initiated, and clockwise rotation of the Carson domain may have been accommodated by northeast-striking left-slip faults. Our work better defines strain patterns at the western extent of the Basin and Range province across an approximately 150-km-long east-west transect that reveals domains of low strain (∼15%) in the Carson Range–Pine Nut Mountains and Gillis Range surrounding high-magnitude extension (∼150%–180%) in the Singatse and Wassuk Ranges. There is no evidence for irregular crustal thickness variations across this same transect—either in the Mesozoic, prior to extension, or today—which suggests that strain must be accommodated differently at decoupled crustal levels to result in smooth, homogenous crustal thickness values despite the significantly heterogeneous extensional evolution. This example across an ∼150 km transect demonstrates that the use of upper-crust extension estimates to constrain pre-extension crustal thickness, assuming pure shear as commonly done for the Mesozoic Nevadaplano orogenic plateau, may not be reliable. 
    more » « less
  5. Abstract The Ruby Mountains–East Humboldt Range–Wood Hills–Pequop Mountains (REWP) metamorphic core complex, northeast Nevada, exposes a record of Mesozoic contraction and Cenozoic extension in the hinterland of the North American Cordillera. The timing, magnitude, and style of crustal thickening and succeeding crustal thinning have long been debated. The Pequop Mountains, comprising Neoproterozoic through Triassic strata, are the least deformed part of this composite metamorphic core complex, compared to the migmatitic and mylonitized ranges to the west, and provide the clearest field relationships for the Mesozoic–Cenozoic tectonic evolution. New field, structural, geochronologic, and thermochronological observations based on 1:24,000-scale geologic mapping of the northern Pequop Mountains provide insights into the multi-stage tectonic history of the REWP. Polyphase cooling and reheating of the middle-upper crust was tracked over the range of <100 °C to 450 °C via novel 40Ar/39Ar multi-diffusion domain modeling of muscovite and K-feldspar and apatite fission-track dating. Important new observations and interpretations include: (1) crosscutting field relationships show that most of the contractional deformation in this region occurred just prior to, or during, the Middle-Late Jurassic Elko orogeny (ca. 170–157 Ma), with negligible Cretaceous shortening; (2) temperature-depth data rule out deep burial of Paleozoic stratigraphy, thus refuting models that incorporate large cryptic overthrust sheets; (3) Jurassic, Cretaceous, and Eocene intrusions and associated thermal pulses metamorphosed the lower Paleozoic–Proterozoic rocks, and various thermochronometers record conductive cooling near original stratigraphic depths; (4) east-draining paleovalleys with ∼1–1.5 km relief incised the region before ca. 41 Ma and were filled by 41–39.5 Ma volcanic rocks; and (5) low-angle normal faulting initiated after the Eocene, possibly as early as the late Oligocene, although basin-generating extension from high-angle normal faulting began in the middle Miocene. Observed Jurassic shortening is coeval with structures in the Luning-Fencemaker thrust belt to the west, and other strain documented across central-east Nevada and Utah, suggesting ∼100 km Middle-Late Jurassic shortening across the Sierra Nevada retroarc. This phase of deformation correlates with terrane accretion in the Sierran forearc, increased North American–Farallon convergence rates, and enhanced Jurassic Sierran arc magmatism. Although spatially variable, the Cordilleran hinterland and the high plateau that developed across it (i.e., the hypothesized Nevadaplano) involved a dynamic pulsed evolution with significant phases of both Middle-Late Jurassic and Late Cretaceous contractional deformation. Collapse long postdated all of this contraction. This complex geologic history set the stage for the Carlin-type gold deposit at Long Canyon, located along the eastern flank of the Pequop Mountains, and may provide important clues for future exploration. 
    more » « less