Laboratory experiments have established that many of the materials comprising the Earth are strongly anisotropic in terms of seismic-wave speeds. Observations of azimuthal and radial anisotropy in the upper mantle are attributed to the lattice-preferred orientation of olivine caused by the shear strains associated with deformation, and provide some of the most direct evidence for deformation and flow within the Earths interior. Although observations of crustal radial anisotropy would improve our understanding of crustal deformation and flow patterns resulting from tectonic processes, large-scale observations have been limited to regions of particularly thick crust. Here we show that observations from ambient noise tomography in the western United States reveal strong deep (middle to lower)-crustal radial anisotropy that is confined mainly to the geological provinces that have undergone significant extension during the Cenozoic Era (since 65 Myr ago). The coincidence of crustal radial anisotropy with the extensional provinces of the western United States suggests that the radial anisotropy results from the lattice-preferred orientation of anisotropic crustal minerals caused by extensional deformation. These observations also provide support for the hypothesis that the deep crust within these regions has undergone widespread and relatively uniform strain in response to crustal thinning and extension. ?? 2010 Macmillan Publishers Limited. All rights reserved.
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Seismic evidence for widespread western-US deep-crustal deformation caused by extension