Recent GPS observations from the western United States, New Zealand, central Greece, and Japan indicate that present-day continental deformation is typically focused in narrow deforming zones whose extent is much smaller than the intervening largely inactive regions. However, these narrow zones are heterogeneously distributed, reflecting the inherent heterogeneity of continental lithospheric strength and internal buoyancy. Plate driving and resisting forces stress plate boundary zones and plate interiors and drive deformation. These forces change continuously and discontinuously, leading to continental deformation that typically evolves and migrates with time. Magmatic and tectonic processes alter lithospheric rheology and internal buoyancy and also contribute to the time-varying character of continental deformation.
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GPS constraints on the kinematics of continental deformation