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Knowledge of the crustal structure of the Washington Cascades and adjacent Puget Lowland is important to both earthquake hazards studies and geologic studies of the evolution of this tectonically active region. We present a model for crustal velocity structure derived from analysis of seismic refraction/wide-angle reflection data collected in 1991 in western Washington. The 280-km-long north-south transect skirts the west flank of the Cascades as it crosses three tectonic provinces including the Northwest Cascades Thrust System (NWCS), the Puget Lowland, and the volcanic arc of the southern Cascades. Within the NWCS, upper crustal velocities range from 4.2 to 5.7 km s-1 and are consistent with the presence of a diverse suite of Mesozoic and Paleozoic metasediments and metavolcanics. In the upper 2-3 km of the Puget Lowland velocities drop to 1.7-3.5 km s-1 and reflect the occurrence of Oligocene to recent sediments within the basin. In the southern Washington Cascades, upper crustal velocities range from 4.0 to 5.5 km s-1 and are consistent with a large volume of Tertiary sediments and volcanics. A sharp change in velocity gradient at 5-10 km marks the division between the upper and middle crust. From approximately 10 to 35 km depth the velocity field is characterized by a velocity increase from ???6.0 to 7.2 km s-1. These high velocities do not support the presence of marine sedimentary rocks at depths of 10-20 km beneath the Cascades as previously proposed on the basis of magnetotelluric data. Crustal thickness ranges from 42 to 47 km along the profile. The lowermost crust consists of a 2 to 8-km-thick transitional layer with velocities of 7.3-7.4 km s-1. The upper mantle velocity appears to be an unusually low 7.6-7.8 km s-1. When compared to velocity models from other regions, this model most closely resembles those found in active continental arcs. Distinct seismicity patterns can be associated with individual tectonic provinces along the seismic transect. In the NWCS and Puget Lowland, most of the seismicity occurs below the base of the upper crust as defined by a seismic boundary at 5-10 km depth and continues to 20-30 km depth. The region of transition between the NWCS and the Puget Lowland appears as a gap in seismicity with notably less seismic activity north of the boundary between the two. Earthquakes within the Cascades are generally shallower (0-20 km) and are dominated by events associated with the Rainier Seismic Zone. Copyright 1997 by the American Geophysical Union.
Additional Publication Details
Crustal structure along the west flank of the Cascades, western Washington