Three seismic refraction-reflection profiles, part of the Mendocino triple junction seismic experiment, allow us to compare and contrast crust and upper mantle of the North American margin before and after it is modified by passage of the Mendocino triple junction. Upper crustal velocity models reveal an asymmetric Great Valley basin overlying Sierran or ophiolitic rocks at the latitude of Fort Bragg, California, and overlying Sierran or Klamath rocks near Redding, California. In addition, the upper crustal velocity structure indicates that Franciscan rocks underlie the Klamath terrane east of Eureka, California. The Franciscan complex is, on average, laterally homogeneous and is thickest in the triple junction region. North of the triple junction, the Gorda slab can be traced 150 km inboard from the Cascadia subduction zone. South of the triple junction, strong precritical reflections indicate partial melt and/or metamorphic fluids at the base of the crust or in the upper mantle. Breaks in these reflections are correlated with the Maacama and Bartlett Springs faults, suggesting that these faults extend at least to the mantle. We interpret our data to indicate tectonic thickening of the Franciscan complex in response to passage of the Mendocino triple junction and an associated thinning of these rocks south of the triple junction due to assimilation into melt triggered by upwelling asthenosphere. The region of thickened Franciscan complex overlies a zone of increased scattering, intrinsic attenuation, or both, resulting from mechanical mixing of lithologies and/or partial melt beneath the onshore projection of the Mendocino fracture zone. Our data reveal that we have crossed the southern edge of the Gorda slab and that this edge and/or the overlying North American crust may have fragmented because of the change in stress presented by the edge.
Additional publication details
Transition from slab to slabless: Results from the 1993 Mendocino triple junction seismic experiment