Rayleigh and S wave tomography constraints on subduction termination and lithospheric foundering in central California

Earth and Planetary Science Letters




The crust and upper mantle structure of central California have been modified by subduction termination, growth of the San Andreas plate boundary fault system, and small-scale upper mantle convection since the early Miocene. Here we investigate the contributions of these processes to the creation of the Isabella Anomaly, which is a high seismic velocity volume in the upper mantle. There are two types of hypotheses for its origin. One is that it is the foundered mafic lower crust and mantle lithosphere of the southern Sierra Nevada batholith. The alternative suggests that it is a fossil slab connected to the Monterey microplate. A dense broadband seismic transect was deployed from the coast to the western Sierra Nevada to fill in the least sampled areas above the Isabella Anomaly, and regional-scale Rayleigh and S wave tomography are used to evaluate the two hypotheses. New shear velocity (Vs) tomography images a high-velocity anomaly beneath coastal California that is sub-horizontal at depths of ∼40–80 km. East of the San Andreas Fault a continuous extension of the high-velocity anomaly dips east and is located beneath the Sierra Nevada at ∼150–200 km depth. The western position of the Isabella Anomaly in the uppermost mantle is inconsistent with earlier interpretations that the Isabella Anomaly is connected to actively foundering foothills lower crust. Based on the new Vs images, we interpret that the Isabella Anomaly is not the dense destabilized root of the Sierra Nevada, but rather a remnant of Miocene subduction termination that is translating north beneath the central San Andreas Fault. Our results support the occurrence of localized lithospheric foundering beneath the high elevation eastern Sierra Nevada, where we find a lower crustal low Vs layer consistent with a small amount of partial melt. The high elevations relative to crust thickness and lower crustal low Vs zone are consistent with geological inferences that lithospheric foundering drove uplift and a ∼3–4 Ma pulse of basaltic magmatism.

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Journal Article
Rayleigh and S wave tomography constraints on subduction termination and lithospheric foundering in central California
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Earth and Planetary Science Letters
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Earthquake Science Center
13 p.
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United States