Earthquake refraction profiles of the root of the Sierra Nevada

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We examine the seismic structure of the Sierra Nevada using records of nine earthquakes and one explosion in and near the Sierra, recorded on stations in the Sierra. We first interpret travel times from these paths, which are confined to a single tectonic block, in terms of one‐dimensional structures. The most nearly reversed pair of earthquakes, the 1966 Truckee and 1983 Durrwood Meadows earthquakes, share refracted (Pn) arrival times (corrected to surface focus) along a line t=8.75±0.25+Δ/8.0, suggesting that a nearly flat layer of 8.0 km/s mantle material lies at depths of 46–48 km. First arrivals from these events do not constrain velocities from ≈30 to 45 km depth. Secondary arrivals and some first arrivals from other earthquakes suggest that velocities in part of this region range between 6.9 and 7.8 km/s. The presence of this “7.x‐km/s” layer can help to explain previous contradictory observations. The 7.x‐km/s layer could be interpreted as either the mafic bottom of a silicic, Mesozoic magmatic arc or as accreted mafic underplating or rejuvenated mantle related to Cenozoic arc volcanism or Basin and Range spreading. Arrivals at stations in the foothills and the crest of the Sierra cannot be fit with a single longitudinal structure, indicating a lateral variation of velocity structure. These variations support previously inferred variations of lithospheric structure, with higher‐velocity, thinner crust to the west beneath the Sierran foothills and slower‐velocity crust (or possibly upper mantle) beneath the high mountains in the eastern Sierra. Rapid changes in arrival times between stations separated by short distances in the eastern Sierra suggest that a sharp boundary exists between the Sierra and the Basin and Range at Moho depths. We also present fresh evidence of the asymmetry of the root of the Sierra, wherein arrivals from earthquakes on the west of the Sierra are delayed within the Sierra and return to original values in the Basin and Range, while arrivals from earthquakes and explosions from the Sierra into the Great Valley. We suggest that if the 7.x‐km/s material occurs in a wedge above the Moho, then the asymmetry can be explained by arrivals from the west being delayed by the dipping 8.0‐km/s Moho, while those from the east may be entering the root along a 7.x‐km/s layer that is near the depth of the Basin and Range Moho.

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Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Earthquake refraction profiles of the root of the Sierra Nevada
Series title Tectonics
DOI 10.1029/93TC03488
Volume 13
Issue 4
Year Published 1994
Language English
Publisher Wiley
Description 15 p.
First page 803
Last page 817
Country United States
State New Hampshire
City Manchester
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