Relationship between the present-day stress field and plate boundary forces in the Pacific Northwest

Geophysical Research Letters



The relationship between plate boundary forces and the observed stress field in the Pacific Northwest is established using numerical models of continental deformation. Because the orientation of the greatest horizontal principal stress throughout the Pacific Northwest differs considerably from the direction of convergence between the Juan de Fuca and North American plates, the relationship between the stress field and forces acting along the subduction zone has been unclear. To address this relationship, a two‐dimensional finite element model developed by Bird [1989] is used that incorporates critical aspects of continental deformation such as a stratified rheology and interaction between thermal and mechanical components of deformation. Boundary conditions are specified in terms of either velocity or shear traction, depending on whether the computed shear stress at the plate boundary is less than or exceeds, respectively, a prescribed limit. Shear‐stress limits on the subduction and transform plate boundaries are independently varied to determine the relative effect of forces along these boundaries on intraplate deformation. Results from this study indicate that the shear stress limit of both subduction and transform boundaries is low, and that the intraplate stress field is attributed, in part, to the normal component of relative plate motion along the transform boundaries. However, the models also indicate that although the subduction zone fault is weak, a minimum shear strength (≥ 10 MPa) for the fault is necessary to explain the observed stress field. The balance among forces along the tectonic boundaries of North America results in a surprising degree of variation in the present‐day stress field.

Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Relationship between the present-day stress field and plate boundary forces in the Pacific Northwest
Series title Geophysical Research Letters
DOI 10.1029/96GL03157
Volume 23
Issue 23
Year Published 1996
Language English
Publisher AGU
Contributing office(s) Pacific Coastal and Marine Science Center
Description 4 p.
First page 3381
Last page 3384