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Structure of the crust and upper mantle in the western United States

Crustal Studies Technical Letter 8

In cooperation with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency
By:

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Abstract

Seismic waves generated by underground nuclear and chemical explosions have been recorded in a network of nearly 2,000 stations in the western conterminous United States as a part of the VELA UNIFORM program. The network extends from eastern Colorado to the California coastline and from central Idaho to the border of the United States and Mexico. The speed of compressional waves in the upper-mantle rocks ranges from 7.7 km/sec in the southern part of the Basin and Range province to 8.2 km/sec in the Great Plains province. In general, the speed of compressional waves in the upper-mantle rocks tends to be nearly the same over large areas within individual geologic provinces. Measured crustal thickness ranges from less than 20 km in the Central Valley of California to 50 km in the Great Plains province. Changes in crustal thickness across provincial boundaries are not controlled by regional altitude above sea level unless the properties of the upper mantle are the same across those boundaries. The crust tends to be thick in regions where the speed of compressional waves in the upper-mantle rocks (and presumably the density) is high, and tends to be relatively thin where the speed of compressional waves in the upper-mantle rocks (and density) is lower. With in the Basin and Range province, crustal thickness seems to vary directly with regional altitude above sea level. Evidence that a layer of intermediate compressional-wave speed exists in the lower part of the crust has been accumulated from seismic waves that have traveled least-time paths, as well as secondary arrivals (particularly reflections). On a scale that includes many geologic provinces, isostatic compensation is related largely to variations in the density of the upper- mantle rocks. Within geologic provinces or adjacent provinces, isostatic compensation may be related to variations in the thickness of crustal layers. Regions of thick crust and dense upper mantle have been relatively stable in Cenozoic time. Regions of thinner crust and low-density upper mantle have had a Cenozoic history of intense diastrophism and silicic volcanism.

Additional Publication Details

Publication type:
Report
Publication Subtype:
USGS Unnumbered Series
Title:
Structure of the crust and upper mantle in the western United States
Series title:
Crustal Studies Technical Letter
Series number:
8
Year Published:
1963
Language:
English
Publisher:
U.S. Geological Survey
Publisher location:
Reston, VA
Contributing office(s):
Earthquake Science Center
Description:
33 p.; ill.; maps
First page:
1
Last page:
33
Number of Pages:
37
Country:
United States
Online Only (Y/N):
Y
Additional Online Files(Y/N):
N