The crustal structure of the axis of the Great Valley, California, from seismic refraction measurements

By:  and 


  • The Publications Warehouse does not have links to digital versions of this publication at this time
  • Download citation as: RIS | Dublin Core


In 1982 the U.S. Geological Survey collected six seismic refraction profiles in the Great Valley of California: three axial profiles with a maximum shot-to-receiver offset of 160 km, and three shorter profiles perpendicular to the valley axis. This paper presents the results of two-dimensional raytracing and synthetic seismogram modeling of the central axial profile. The crust of the central Great Valley is laterally heterogeneous along its axis, but generally consists of a sedimentary section overlying distinct upper, middle, and lower crustal units. The sedimentary rocks are 3-5 km thick along the profile, with velocities increasing with depth from 1.6 to 4.0 km/s. The basement (upper crust) consists of four units: 1. (1) a 1.0-1.5 km thick layer of velocity 5.4-5.8 km/s, 2. (2) a 3-4 km thick layer of velocity 6.0-6.3 km/s, 3. (3) a 1.5-3.0 km thick layer of velocity 6.5-6.6 km/s, and 4. (4) a laterally discontinuous, 1.5 km thick layer of velocity 6.8-7.0 km/s. The mid-crust lies at 11-14 km depth, is 5-8 km thick, and has a velocity of 6.6-6.7 km/s. On the northwest side of our profile the mid-crust is a low-velocity zone beneath the 6.8-7.0 km/s lid. The lower crust lies at 16-19 km depth, is 7-13 km thick, and has a velocity of 6.9-7.2 km/s. Crustal thickness increases from 26 to 29 km from NW to SE in the model. Although an unequivocal determination of crustal composition is not possible from P-wave velocities alone, our model has several geological and tectonic implications. We interpret the upper 7 km of basement on the northwest side of the profile as an ophiolitic fragment, since its thickness and velocity structure are consistent with that of oceanic crust. This fragment, which is not present 10-15 km to the west of the refraction profile, is probably at least partially responsible for the Great Valley gravity and magnetic anomalies, whose peaks lie about 10 km east of our profile. The middle and lower crust are probably gabbroic and the product of magmatic or tectonic underplating, or both. The crustal structure of the Great Valley is dissimilar to that of the adjacent Diablo Range, suggesting the existence of a fault or suture zone throughout the crust between these provinces. ?? 1987.

Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title The crustal structure of the axis of the Great Valley, California, from seismic refraction measurements
Series title Tectonophysics
Volume 140
Issue 1
Year Published 1987
Language English
Larger Work Type Article
Larger Work Subtype Journal Article
Larger Work Title Tectonophysics
First page 49
Last page 63