An axial view of a metamorphic core complex: Crustal structure of the Whipple and Chemehuevi Mountains, southeastern California

Journal of Geophysical Research B: Solid Earth
By: , and 

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Abstract

A 135‐km‐long, NW‐SE trending, seismic refraction/wide‐angle reflection profile provides a unique along‐strike view of the crustal structure of a belt of metamorphic core complexes in southeastern California: the Whipple, Chemehuevi, and Sacramento mountains metamorphic core complexes. Interpretation of the seismic data was done by two‐dimensional forward modeling of travel times and amplitudes. The final model consists of (1) a thin (< 1.5 km) veneer of upper plate and fractured lower plate rocks (velocities of 1.5–5.3 km s−1) overlying a fairly homogeneous basement with velocities of 6.0 km s−1; (2) a localized, high‐velocity (6.4 km s−1) body, situated directly beneath the Whipple Mountains; (3) a 6.3–6.4 km s−1 middle crust that is thickest beneath the core complexes; (4) a 6.65±0.15 km s−1 lower crust; (5) crustal thickness of 27 km with a deeper crustal root (3 km) beneath the Whipple Mountains metamorphic core complex; and (6) a Pn velocity of 8.0±0.10 km s−1. The crustal structure that underlies the belt of metamorphic core complexes provides new insights into the processes that control extension in the deep crust. Upper crustal velocities are higher beneath the Whipple Mountains (where velocities increase to 6.4 km s−1 at ∼5 km depth) than beneath the Chemehuevi and Sacramento mountains. In addition, midcrustal discontinuities rise 2–5 km beneath the Whipple complex compared to the other complexes. These observations support greater uplift and a slightly deeper midcrustal origin for the rocks now exposed in the core of the Whipple Mountains compared to rocks in the Chemehuevi and Sacramento mountains. Despite the enhanced uplift and extension in the Whipple Mountains, the crust is thicker here (30 km) than anywhere else along the Colorado River extensional corridor. This may be in part a relic of compressional and magmatic thickening during the Mesozoic. However, we suggest that inflation of the crust during Tertiary extension was the dominant mechanism. Both mantle‐derived magmatism and lateral ductile inflow in the crust are proposed.

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Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title An axial view of a metamorphic core complex: Crustal structure of the Whipple and Chemehuevi Mountains, southeastern California
Series title Journal of Geophysical Research B: Solid Earth
DOI 10.1029/91JB01003
Volume 96
Issue B7
Year Published 1991
Language English
Publisher American Geophysical Union
Contributing office(s) Geology, Minerals, Energy, and Geophysics Science Center
Description 19 p.
First page 12293
Last page 12311
Country United States
State Arizona, California